How To Teach Tomie dePaola Like A Pro

Teaching Tomie DePaola like a Pro.title image

Tomie dePaola’s books are so popular with classroom teachers. The rich vocabulary, amusing characters, and interesting plots draw kids in. Plus, they provide teachers with excellent examples for mentor text lessons. In this post, I am sharing teaching tips you can use to make your next Tomie dePaola Author Study one your students won’t forget. My hope is that I will show you how to teach Tomie DePaola’s books like a pro!

Tomie Depaola, author and illustrator

The best way to introduce an author to your class is to do a little research as a group about his/her life as well as the history of his/her books. You learn so much about the author’s craft this way. HERE is the link to Tomie’s site and biographical information. When I visited the page as well as other related pages, I learned that he’s written over 270 books for children and won numerous awards including Caldecott and Newbery Honor awards for Strega Nona and 26 Fairmont Avenue. Can you imagine having published that many books? He truly had one remarkable career! Check out this brief video about him.

I expect most of us wonder how a young boy becomes such a famous author. Well, fortunately for us, Tomie tells about his childhood in the book, The Art Lesson. I suggest beginning your author study with this book just to help your students put themselves into Tomie’s shoes.


In this unit, my hope was to help teachers and students make connections to Tomie’s childhood. The unit begins with a schema builder about creating art as well as a prereading brainstorm for students to record what they know, see, and wonder about Tomie. The resources also help students explore the details of Tommy’s life as if it’s fictional. In reality, it is an autobiography. In true Tomie form, he renames himself “Tommy”, a more traditional spelling of his name. You can check out the unit HERE.

tomie depaola’s mOST FAMOUS books

THE Strega Nona SERIES

The Strega Nona books are my all time favorite. Why? Well, it’s all about the characters for me. Strega Nona and Big Anthony give us so much material to use when teaching characterization and character traits. I love the life lessons and Big Anthony’s mishaps. He sure can get into some trouble!

I created this bundle because many teachers prefer to delve into the Strega Nona series versus do a full blown author study. It includes before-during-after activities for each of the five titles. Strega Nona, the original is the book you’d start with first.

Jamie O’Rourke Series

Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day! You can not go wrong with these two classics. Jamie O’Rourke reminds me a lot of Big Anthony, and certainly, you might make comparisons between these characters (text to text connections). The first book, Jamie O’Rourke and the Big Potato is a derivation of The Enormous Turnip. In the story, Jamie tries to take a shortcut and plants a seed he gets from a leprechaun. Well, it grows and grows, and when all of the townspeople help him get it out, it rolls down the hill and blocks the road. Gahhh!

The bundle I created for these two books includes both PDF and Google Slides TM, so it makes it easy for teachers to vary lessons. There are about 20 PDF pages and 20 digital pages for each book. I include a schema builder, vocabulary, comprehension skill activities, questioning task cards, and a writing prompt (class book) with each title.

The Bill and Pete Series

Another series Tomie wrote were the Bill and Pete books. Bill is a crocodile and Pete is his “toothbrush” bird friend. The two characters are inseparable, and their mission is to “save the day”. There are three books in the series; Bill and Pete, Bill and Pete to the Rescue, and Bill and Pete Go Down the Nile. I love Bill and Pete to the Rescue because they save Little Jane Allison, the crocodile and Bill gets reunited with his dad with a surprising ending.

I have added quite a bit to these units. Like the others, I include a schema builder, vocabulary activity and word cards, comprehension lessons, questioning task cards, and a writing prompt for you to make a class book. Each of the individual units sell for $5 and include both PDF and digital options. The bundle is $12.

Little Grunt and the Big Egg

The final book that I have in my author study bundle is Little Grunt and the Big Egg. It is best for second grade, and the setting is in prehistoric time. Little Grunt is an inquisitive kid, and he’s tasked to go out looking for eggs. Well, he grabs the biggest one he can find. Everyone in the family cheers with joy UNTIL…it hatches!

You can tie in lots of great discussion with this one such as what makes a great pet, life in prehistoric times, comparisons to life today, and more.

The unit I created has a focus on the story elements-characters, setting, and plot. It has a few project options in the PDF version and adapted options in the digital. You can learn more about the unit HERE.

Tomie Depaola Resources in My shop

As you can tell, Tomie is a favorite of mine, and I highly recommend sharing his story telling skills with your students. If there are other titles you love, certainly, you can add them in. Your students will be glad you did.


Carla is a licensed reading specialist with 27 years of experience in the regular classroom (grades 1, 4, and 5), in Title 1 reading, as a tech specialists, and a literacy coach. She has a passion for literacy instruction and meeting the needs of the individual learner.