Tomie dePaola Author Study

Using Tomie de Paola's books for an author study can get students thinking about characters, plot, and illustrations.

By Tracey Rouse

Tomie de Paola author's study

Tomie dePaola is a wonderful author to focus on in the primary grades. Tomie dePaola is an author and illustrator of both picture books and chapter books. Because of his strong characters and beautiful illustrations, children thoroughly enjoy his books during this unit of study.

As with most of my author studies, I first activate background knowledge by constructing a KWL chart with my students. Once we have established what we would like to find out about this amazing author, I have children visit the author’s website This helps give students an idea of who the author is and where he gets his ideas. (I also find it is helpful to visit his website when developing writer’s workshop mini-lessons on seed ideas.)

I usually start off my author study on Tomie dePaola by reading and exploring the story, "The Art Lesson." This book is exceptional to use when modeling how to make text to self connections. (Please see my article on this writing topic.) After reading this story to the class, I ask students to fill out a t-chart to create connections from the text to themselves. Almost every student is able to make a connection to this text since it is based on school and the desire to be an artist.

Another terrific book to incorporate into this author study is "Oliver Button Is a Sissy." This book is great to use as a character building lesson. In this book, the character gets teased because he acts differently. I usually use this book as an opportunity to discuss what makes each of us special and unique. The students brainstorm ways we are unique and create self-portraits using tear art. The students are then encouraged to write a short poem about their unique qualities.

During this unit,  I have students fill in a graph showing which books they liked most by Tomie dePaola. This is displayed on the bulletin board (a great way to address graphing skills.) The book that usually wins is one from his "Strega Nona" series. It’s easy to see why children like these books since they are filled with colorful characters and story lines. I enjoy conducting problem/solution graphic organizers with this series, as well as identifying the sequence of events of the story.

At the end of this unit, I usually view the video “A Visit with Tomie dePaola” and fill out the remaining column of our KWL chart. Students absolutely adore this author study because of the fantastic story plots and strong characters in Tomie dePaolo books. Below are some more ideas to incorporate during your author study on Tomie dePaola.

Tomie dePaola Author Study:

Learning About Tomie dePaola

This lesson focuses on taking notes while watching a video about Tomie dePaola. Students then write about how writing can affect people's lives.

Teaching With Tomie dePaola Books

In this lesson, students create a chart of characteristics they notice about the author's books. This chart is used while reading Tomie dePaolo books.

Let's Draw

Students read "The Art Lesson" and discuss how to reach for their dreams. Students use Kidspiration software to create a project about reaching their goals.