Tomie dePaola: Facts & Biography

Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

Tomie dePaola is a well-known name in the children's literature field, having written and/or illustrated more than 250 books. In this lesson, we'll take a closer look at the life and times of Tomie dePaola.

Tomie's World

Whether it was writing his popular Strega Nona series, teaching in a college arts and theater department or singing and tap dancing onstage, the now 82-year-old Tomie dePaola can boast a rich and varied resume dating back to a dream he had as a four-year-old child.

In this lesson, we'll learn more about this renowned children's author and his life.

Early Life

DePaola was born in Meriden, Connecticut, on September 15, 1934, the son of Joseph and Florence dePaola. He credits his parents for nurturing his love of books and making him a reader at an early age. In fact, when he was just four years old, he would tell people he wanted to be an artist: ''I'm going to be an artist. I'm going to write stories and draw pictures for books, and I'm going to sing and tap dance on the stage.''

While his brother, Joseph, (he had sisters Judie and Maureen as well) dreamed of being Dick Tracy, Tomie already knew what direction his career would take.

As a high school student dePaola was already on the road to success, dancing his way across Meriden and honing his art skills, showing his work in exhibitions and other venues as he was able.

College Days

DePaola earned fine arts degrees from the Pratt Institute and the California College of Arts, as well as a doctoral-level degree in fine arts from Lone Mountain College. He used his time in college to learn how to draw everything, according to his website, and practiced continuously.

Since that time he has been awarded honorary degrees by the University of Connecticut, Georgetown University, and many other institutions.

Professional Life

DePaola earned his first book contract after graduating from Pratt, a job illustrating a book called Sound. A short time later, his own book came out, a work titled The Wonderful Dragon of Timlin about a pink dragon that all the people of the kingdom of Timlin adored.

He spent a lot of time sharing his knowledge in the classroom, teaching in schools outside of Boston and in California during the 1960s. By the 1970s, however, he had returned to his home region of New England, teaching art at Chamberlayne Junior College in Boston, and working at Colby-Sawyer College in New Hampshire, teaching, writing, directing and designing sets and costumes for the Children's Theatre Project. He followed that position with a stint teaching at New England College before retiring from full-time teaching to spend more time writing and illustrating books.

Awards and Recognitions

Some of the accolades, or awards, tossed at dePaola's feet include words and phrases like ''living treasure,'' ''icon'' and ''substantial and lasting contribution.''

DePaola's recognitions started early in his career with Strega Nona, which earned him runner-up status for the Caldecott Medal in 1976. Six years later, he received Boston Globe-Horn Book honors for illustration, followed by the Golden Kite Award a few years after that. In 1990, dePaola was the United States nominee for the international Hans Christian Andersen Award, the highest global honor for children's literature creators. In 2000, he won a Newbery Honor award for 26 Fairmount Avenue. In 2011, dePaola received the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award for making ''a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children.''

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 160 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create An Account