Look around, the world is beautiful!

By Himanshu Nimbhorkar

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“A picture book is a small door to the enormous world of the visual arts, and they’re often the first art a young person sees.”

Tomie Depaola extensively advocated for the need to read. One can learn anything and everything about anything and everything – he time and again reiterated. As basic and simple as it sounds, we often forget in today’s time and age the significance of reading. What it does to our younger versions, and how it shapes us as human beings, the contribution of books to our lives is of paramount importance.

Tomie Depaola was born and brought up in Connecticut, US. An author and illustrator with hundreds of books to his credit, Depaola wrote passionately about varied diverse subjects, quite a bit of which has been borrowed from his own life or inspired by his life experiences.

His most popular work happens to be the ‘Strega Nona’ series, where Magic Pasta pot floods and buries a town with abundant amounts of Pasta. The series involves a long list of titles – ‘Big Anthony and the magic ring’, ‘Strega Nona’s magic lessons’, ‘Merry Christmas, Strega Nona’, ‘Strega Nona meets her match’, ‘Strega Nona – Her Story’, ‘Big Anthony – His Story’, and many more.

Depaola’s heartwarming stories provided a sense of warmth and relatability for kids and teens alike. He strived for the cause of children making peace with their identities, exploring them, and embracing their distinct place in this world. How important is it to create that safe space, and bring in the necessary literary comfort for a little soul to immerse into it and blossom!

Another significant piece of work in Depaola’s bibliography ‘26 Fairmount Avenue’, a memoir that deals with the author’s early childhood memories involving his close friends and family. His house (and space) too plays a significant part in the timeline of events that leave a pleasant aftertaste.

Folktales, board books, picture books, illustrations, memoirs – Depaola wrote across forms and sub-genres, with the ever-consistent honesty and purity spanning across it all. ‘Front porch tales and North Country Whoppers’, ‘The art lesson’, ‘Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs’, ‘Bill and Pete’, ‘Boss for a day’, ‘Mary had a little lamb’, ‘Little grunt and the big egg’, ‘Angels angels everywhere’, the titles across forms amount to a long spread out list.

Depaola’s admiration for art and numerous different kinds of art forms was fairly evident all throughout his career, both in terms of practicing it on his own, incorporating it into his writings, and endorsing it in general while addressing media and the masses through his conversations for years. Layers and nuances find their way into his writings and illustrations very seamlessly, resulting in a tender blend of his gentle creative vision and hopeful philosophical outlook.

In his adorably beautiful book named ‘Look and be grateful’, Depaola simply writes ‘Today is today. And it is a gift.’ The character wakes up and perceives the world through a newfound sense of gratefulness and thankfulness for anything and everything under the sun.

It inspires us to look around and appreciate the little things. People, nature, love!