It's not always a positive attribute to say someone's persona fills a room, because it often means an ego problem. With Tomie dePaola, however, his seemingly genuine joy for life simply enlightens all around him. He radiates the same feelings engendered by his books.
A resident of New Hampshire, dePaola is perhaps the most recognizable children's book artist and writer in the United States today. He has received many awards for children's literature, including more than 20 from children themselves. A master at bringing folk traditions to life for young people, dePaola ventures into topics obscure and mundane, always with an interest and zest that carries over to the reader.
This popularity and this joy makes him a popular speaker with child educators. On the occasion of a speech to such a group in Washington, D.C., three current and former Sojourners staff people - Ed Spivey Jr., Linda DeGraf, and Bob Hulteen - went to his hotel to talk with this noted illustrator and author.
Sojourners does not normally send three interviewers, but as parents, we were all quite excited to meet this man. He did not disappoint. Whether discussing children's spirituality, biblical stories and gender issues, or tap dancing, dePaola entertains, encourages, and enlightens. Even in printed form, his presence just may fill the room for you, too.
- The Editors
Sojourners: How did you become a children's book illustrator?
Tomie dePaola: I thought you had to make your life career choice before they'd let you into kindergarten. Books were a very important part of my childhood, so it was quite natural for me. I was 4 years old and said, "When I grow up I'm going to be an artist. I want to draw pictures and write stories for books, and sing and tap dance on the stage."