On Sunday I went to the marvelous Connecticut Children's Book Fair at the University of Connecticut. There were lots of wonderful authors & illustrators to see, but I was super excited about Tomie dePaola! In library my second graders enjoy many of his stories and learn all about him, so I thought going to the book fair might provide me with some new information that I could share with them. My experience far exceeded my expectations!
First I went to see Tomie's presentation, which was delightful! Despite the long line to get in and the packed room, I managed to get a front-row seat. (Yay!) He explained where the story idea and character Strega Nona came from, he talked about his new book Strega Nona's Gift, and he taught us how to blow an authentic "Italian kiss". Fortunately he gave me permission to record him so I was able to share his talk with my students! They loved copying Tomie and blowing a kiss at the screen. Watch the video and you can, too!
At the end of his presentation he offered to answer questions, and I was ready! As part of our author study, I had asked my students what they wanted to know about Tomie. It was really hard to decide which question to ask, but I knew I had to be fair to all the other people who had questions, too....
I bought a copy of his newest book for our library and had him autograph it for us, and I was happy to see him tuck a postcard into each book he signed. The card has a picture of him and features a copy of his signature complete with a heart drawn inside the capital "T". I had told my students that he considers the heart his symbol and that he always includes one when signing his name, so I was looking forward to hanging it up in the library to show them. What came next was the most exciting part of the day!
While I stood in line for David Macauley, I noticed Tomie's line was getting shorter. I wondered if maybe I would have a chance to ask him a few more of the children's questions if no one was waiting at his table for autographs. I sidled on over and stood nearby while he chatted with the last person in line (and managed to learn the answer to another question, heehee). His assistant noticed me and asked if I needed my book signed, and I admitted why I was there. Tomie looked up and invited me to ask him my questions, and the next thing I knew I was interviewing Tomie dePaola! I couldn't believe my luck! There wasn't enough time to go through the entire list, but I learned loads more that I could share with my eager second graders. Here are a few examples:
Q: Does he put a heart on the cover of every book?
A: There's a heart on a lot of them, but not on every single one.
Q: Does he speak any other languages?
A: A little bit of French.
Q: What color are his eyes?
Q: How many hearts are in his collection?
A: He's lost count!
Q: What parts of the story Tom are fiction and which parts are based on fact?
A: It's entirely autobiographical. (So why does it live in the fiction section? He didn't know!)
All too soon it was time to say goodbye, but before I left Tomie's assistant gave me enough postcards so that every one of my second graders could have one to keep. WOW! It was so much fun to share my exciting day with them, and being able to give them each their own little souvenir was the cherry on top!
|The postcard even answered one of the student's questions: Does he have any pets? Tomie is pictured with his dog, Bronte!|