Updated: Apr 12
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I remember the day that Tomi dePaola came into my life. It was the end of the first Friday of my first week being a first-year teacher. Almost everyone had left the building and I didn't want to leave until I had every single detail in place for the following week. Thanks to my ultimate checklist, I was going to be there for quite some time.
On my checklist, I had a "goals" section where I jotted down 1-2 things that I HAD to accomplish by the end of the week-no matter what. And from the look of things, I actually pulled it off. I gave myself a pat on the back for initiating the ongoing efforts of what I considered to be the two most important goals for that week- building relationships with my kiddos and teaching them how to build relationships with books.
The goal of surviving week one as a first year teacher was simply understood.
Now don't get me wrong, I still had a LONG list of things that needed to be accomplished as a first-year teacher, but I figured if I could get those two things down everything else would be doable.
Just when I was about to sit down in my classroom library nook, I heard a knock at my door. It was my favorite Literacy Professor walking in with a small box that was neatly wrapped in brown craft paper, white twine, and a vibrant yellow daisy- bright enough to brighten someone's day.
"I thought I'd help add a Caldecott to your budding little library...and some pasta"
Intrigued by the invitation, I joined her at my round table for a serving of pasta and Strega Nona. Yes- even adults enjoy read-alouds!
We laughed and had an hour-long conversation about the book and Tomi dePaola. I soaked up every book recommendation she made, jotting the titles down onto my "Need-To-Buy List". I couldn't wait to start my new collection of Tomi dePaola books.
When she left, I went to my computer and did what any other new fan would do- I Googled him. 😉 (Read his bio HERE).
I couldn't believe all that he had accomplished as an artist, illustrator, scholar, etc. I was kicking myself for not knowing about him and his work sooner.
So naturally, after seeing all of his fabulousness, I headed to my local Indie bookstore first thing the next morning. I walked in, grabbed my shopping basket, headed to the Children's Picture Books area, sat down on the floor with a nice cup of coffee (thanks to Mr. Jones), and started pulling books from the shelves.
After having read and sifted through my "need to buy now" and my "need to buy later" stacks of books, I pulled out my list, crossed off all the titles that I was planning to purchase, and made Mr. Jone's day with the final bill.
I called my professor later that afternoon and shared with her that my Tomi dePaola collection was already off to a great start. In hearing the excitement in my voice about my new collection, she asked for the titles that were still left on my list. Little did I know of what was to become of that request.
Every year she sent a small box, wrapped in brown craft paper, white twine, and a vibrant yellow daisy with a new Tomi dePaola book. And each year, the card read the same-
"For your collection. From one Tomi dePaola fan to another."
This tradition continued for nearly 15 years (I'm dating myself here!) in which the arrival of a new book warranted for a read-aloud and some yummy pasta. 😋
Fast forward to March 30th of this year.
I remember the day being completely filled with online meetings, supporting others through their transition to online remote learning, doing online PDs, making sure to send a few virtual birthday gifts to my sister, and stumbling on an unexpected email from my professor with the subject line reading, "November release on Tomi dePaola-a must get!"
I was so excited about the news that I got online to pre-order the book only to come across a hashtag that was trending all over social media- #TomidePaola. My heart sank when I realized why.
My favorite storyteller was gone.
A few days later, a small box, wrapped in brown craft paper, white twine, and a vibrant yellow daisy showed up at my doorstep once again. I knew exactly what was inside this much-anticipated box but this time, I paused and opened it slowly with my heart beating a little faster.
Inside was a copy of Quiet with a card that simply read,
Storytellers are magical. Their stories will always live on.
And she's right.
Tomi dePaola's written and illustrated works have reminded us throughout the years of the importance of having faith, the need to be kind, the beauty of love, the encouragement to make change, the reason for reflection and the value of bringing laughter to each day.
With his invitation to join him on his journey of storytelling, we were (and still are) given the opportunity to enjoy the splendors of literacy, venture through the treasures found in his artwork, and explore the freedom to imagine and escape into a world that only Mr. dePaola knew how to create with his remarkable gifts.
So for this month, I wanted to pay tribute to an incredibly talented author/illustrator. In doing so, I wanted to simply share with you my personal favorite titles written and illustrated by Tomi dePaola himself. These books have found their way into my personal library, bedtime stories, conversations, classrooms, frequent read-alouds, and into the hearts of many readers including my own.
I hope this list inspires you to continue to share the love of books with those around you. Here's to wishing you a month full of love, laughter, creativity, and good reads!
Stay safe and healthy friends!
XO & Happy Reading,
P.s. Through the inspiration of another Tomi dePaola fan, the tradition of gifting his books continues. Pasta soon to come when my one-month-old niece is ready for the world of solids. 🍝