Two of my all-time favorite authors saw my mother standing in line at the local independent bookstore, so I could go to school and get their autograph. Years later, I would meet both of those authors, but Tomie dePaola became my (unknown to him) “favorite uncle” to see when he came to the Northshire. When he would be announced, I would have to breath deep, tell myself do not be the stalker I knew I could be and remember not to Fan Girl.
I would fail. Every. Single. Time.
I mean that was Tomie dePaola! The man who wrote Strega Nona, The Clown of God (to this day I still need a box of tissues to read it) and 26 Fairmount Avenue series. Several memories of his books surround my journey of reading his books. Having them read to me, trying to read to my sister and later, nephews. Walking into the bookstore as an adult (pre-working there) and asking a nice lady if she had a book about a clown by Tomie dePaola. That lady later became my first supervisor when I became an employee.
As a bookseller, I always tried to find a new person to take home one of his books. And if they were a fan, I would promote the latest book or soon to be latest. I would talk the ear off people when they would let me Fan Girl over Tomie. I give his books as baby shower gifts, birthday and Christmas.
I found out about his passing due to a sleepless night and a Twitter post. When I came to work, the first person I saw was that same above lady. She saw I had heard the news, she commiserated and said that she had left a note on my computer to see her before I read my emails. She was kind enough to let me know face to face. I will always remember packed houses where I would stand in the back of the crowd, hoping to catch a glimpse and I still hear him talking about Quiet and his daily breathing exercises. I will remember getting excited when I would see “New from Tomie dePaola.” Soon, The Comic Adventures of Old Mother Hubbard and Her Dog, Marianna May and Nursey and Fight the Night will be reissued so another generation can enjoy Mr. Tomie.