I’m giving away FOUR books by Tomie dePaola!

Tomie dePaola is a beloved author and illustrator for good reason, and in addition to his dozens of charming and lovely books about Strega Nona and Big Anthony, he published many Catholic books, including books on the saints, Bible stories, and other religious works. Ignatius Press with Magnificat has recently been reprinting some of these in hardcover. I got to review four of them, and they’ve given me four to give away to you! The titles:

Queen Esther
Brother Francis of Assisi
Noah and the Ark
Mary, the Mother of Jesus

Enter by using the form at the end of the post. 

If you don’t win, or if you just want to order some or all of the books, I also have a 25% off code for these four books.

Use the coupon code STOMIE25 when you order any of these four books from Ignatius and get a 25% discount starting today and ending Saturday, Nov. 21 at midnight. 

And now for the books! 

Queen Esther (first published 1986) A simple and dignified telling of the story of Esther, the Jewish woman who was chosen for her beauty by the Persian king, and who risked her own life to protect her people.

Esther is rendered in blues and grays, very elegant but rather severe and sad, which seems right to me. She didn’t ask to be put in that position, but she did what had to be done once she was there. 

A good true “princess” story about a girl chosen for her beauty, who musters up courage and strength for her people. 

The story is somewhat simplified, good for young kids, and is nicely dramatic

The final page notes that her story is commemorated on the Jewish feast Purim. “On Purim, Jews give gifts to the poor and one another. This spring holiday often falls during Lent, when Catholics recall the courageous faith of Queen Esther.” I didn’t realize this was so, but he’s right! The Mass readings during Lent tell her story, paired with an exhortation to ask God for what we want and trust he will give it to us. 

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Brother Francis of Assisi (first published 1982) 
I had this one when it was first published, and as a result, I’ve always been a little afraid of St. Francis, as is appropriate. He is most certainly not the fuzzy wuzzy pal to our furry friends that pop culture has turned him into, but was an intense, passionate, singleminded man.

Don’t get me wrong; it’s not a scary or graphic book, but it doesn’t shy away from how hard Francis was on himself.

I had a hard time getting through the Pope’s dream where Francis holds up the crumbling walls of the Church. Oh boy. Give yourself time to compose yourself if you’re reading this one aloud.

It does include favorite stories, like Francis preaching to the birds, and dealing with the wolf of Gubbio,

and also has some lesser known stories, like Francis allowing himself to indulge in some honey almond cakes made for him by a patroness,

and a story about Francis recreating a manger scene and being visited by a real holy child who smiles at Francis and strokes his beard.

And here — get ready — here is Francis receiving the stigmata

This is one of de Paola’s longer books at 47 pages, and it includes the Canticle of the Sun and a timeline of Francis’ life, including his and Clare’s feast days. Good stories about Clare and her sisters, as well. The illustrations were painstakingly researched on site, and you get a real sense of place, as well as a sense of who Francis really was. Excellent. 

*****

Noah and the Ark (first published 1983) I struggle with children’s books about Noah’s ark! I know it has animals and a rainbow, but it’s not really a children’s story, and it bothers me when it’s portrayed as cutesy or rollicking. DePaola’s version avoids this, and is told very simply and has a sort of mythical air to it, which works well.

God is shown as a powerful, bright hand emerging mystically from the heavens, and the animals are animals, not cartoonish sidekicks

DePaola’s mastery of color is on full display here. There are two pages with no text, just the flood waters:

and then the next page pulls back a bit and shows the ark still being tossed on the waves, but with the threatening clouds receding. 

A solid rendition, bright and dignified. 32 pages, for children ages 5 and up. 

*****

And now for the crown jewel of these new editions!

Mary, the Mother of Jesus (first published 1995) 33 pages, and there is a LOT in here. An astonishing book, luminous, illuminating. If you’re looking for a religious book to give a child for Christmas, this is the one.

It covers the whole life of Mary, from before her conception to her assumption and coronation, and it draws on scripture and also on pious legend, including things like the child Mary climbing the steps to the temple by herself,

and the staff of Joseph miraculously flowering. It also, to my surprise, describes Mary as gently dying and being laid in a tomb, with Thomas meeting an angel who has him roll the stone away and find her winding sheets left behind. My kids were a little dismayed, having been taught (by me!) that Mary didn’t die, but was assumed into heaven body and soul without dying first. It turns out there’s no actual dogma definitively saying whether she died or not. In any case, the illustration of her assumption got me right in the kishkes:

Reading the whole thing from start to finish helped me remember what a straight up good story it is, and how many angels came to this family. 

All the illustrations are striking, and the expressions on the (clearly middle eastern) faces are subtle and thought-provoking.  Here is Mary proud but protective as the wise men appear to visit her little son

Here are the parents angry, dismayed, and confused to find Jesus in the temple:

Here is Mary calmly and knowingly, with a glimmer of a smile, telling the stewards at Cana to do whatever Jesus tells them

and look at this angel, busting through into the room of this young girl with her long braid

Extraordinary. It says ages 7 and up, and honestly I would give this book to an adult convert to introduce him to Mary. It’s so lovely and heartfelt. Each section is introduced with a short excerpt from the liturgy of the hours. So good. 

That’s it! Good luck! You have until Friday the 20th to enter. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you can’t see the Rafflecopter form, click this link and it will take you there. 

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P.S., Did I ever tell you my Tomie dePaola story? It’s not a very good story, but it’s what I’ve got. In second grade, I won a Young Author’s contest (The Day It Rained Piano Keys, by Simmy Prever. No copies extant) and dePaola presented the awards, and each winner got a kiss on the cheek. I’d been reading his books steadily my whole life, and almost forty years later, I finally got up my nerve to ask him for an interview, because he lived in NH. I wanted to know what his favorite book was, and what his relationship was with the Church, and how hard it was to paint the face of Jesus. And if he knew someone like Bambalona. So I put in my request and I waited with bated breath for his response, and then two weeks later, he died.

That’s my story. I don’t think I actually killed him, but if you want to talk to someone, my advice is to do it now, not later. SIGH. 

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175 thoughts on “I’m giving away FOUR books by Tomie dePaola!”

  1. Tomie de Paola is an all time favorite of mine, what a gifted man he was! +Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord, and let your perpetual light shine upon him+
    I hope I win! 🙂

  2. I would love these books for our Catholic family. My children have loved other Tomie depaolo books, especially the Clown of God and the Legend of the Poinsetta, and the Our Lady of Guadalupe book. Would love to be entered in the drawing! Thanks for reviewing these.

  3. I’ve never read his books before, but I have no doubt we’d all love them at home!
    Any chance you or Ignatius would post outside the US??

  4. Thank you for the chance to win! We love Tomie and used to go every year to see him at Gibson’s. What a gentle and joyful soul. <3

  5. I just handed my mother a list of Tomic De Paulo books as Christmas presents for my little ones. One’s only 5 weeks old but you’re never to young to start them on good art.

  6. What a great set of books! I love Tommie de Paula too. One of my favorites has always been Clown of God. Talk about hard to read aloud! Not sure I’ve ever gotten through it without having to take a moment. I’ve never seen most of these and they’re beautiful!

  7. Commenting because I clicked the “I commented” button but, you know, I hadn’t yet, and I thought, “Probably Simcha isn’t gonna check every last damn comment and would she even care if I didn’t comment?” and then figured, yeah, maybe, and anyway, God might care if I lied to get Christian books, so here we are. And I love your writing, Ms. Fisher.

  8. Oh these are lovely! I had no idea dePaola wrote books on religious topics. I adored his illustrations in The Legend of the Bluebonnet and The Indian Paintbrush as a child. I would love to share these with my children.

  9. I absolutely love Tommie de Paola!!! My favorite is the Clown of God! I can’t wait to get these when you pick me!!!

  10. We have two Tomie Paola books from the library right now! I’d love to have any of these but especially Brother Francis for our son, Francis 🙂

  11. I love reading these books to my nephews and nieces. It’s great to teach them about our Faith at a young age! Thanks for this opportunity. God bless!

  12. Our family loves Tomie dePaola! I don’t think we’ve ever read a book of his that wasn’t beautiful. How exciting that they’re reprinting some of his books. I hope they do the Our Lady of Guadalupe one next…

  13. Tommie DePaola’s works are the books I have zealously collected at library sales, garage sales and second-hand book stores. Oh my goodness Simcha: “I don’t think I actually killed him” made me snort my water up my nose. But the part about not waiting made me sad. It’s very true.

  14. Tomie dePaola is one of my favorite writer and illustrator. I was sad when I heard the news that he made his journey to heaven. Probably he met all those saints , Jesusand Mary. This could be great chance to have more of his books into my collection. Thank you for offering this.

  15. Oh I love Tomie so dearly. He died on the 12th anniversary of my mother’s death, actually. It was a huge day of mourning in our house this year. We read Strega Nona every Christmas Eve (I don’t know why, but it is a tradition in my Italian family!)

  16. I don’t do Insta–put pick me! I’m a catechist (as you know) and would absolutely rejoice in giving these as gifts to 4 students. So I would spread Tomie to 4 families. I didn’t know Tomie was so out of print, I have picked up a few over the years at used book stores.

  17. Beautiful books! I love your picks – I am still crying over “The
    Clown of God” .

    These would make great Christmas presents, but I would probably squirrel them away in my girl’s bookshelf.

  18. My Grandma was an elementary school librarian so I grew up with Tommie De Paula books but had no idea he was Catholic until I converted and discovered his trove of wonderful books on the saints. They are my absolute favorite to get for my kids.

  19. I love this idea! Thank you so much for doing this giveaway. I would appreciate winning to donate these stories to my parish where so many other children could benefit from them.

  20. My heart swells a little every time I read a Tomie book, and somehow we don’t own any of these!! Would love to add them to our shelves.

  21. I am so inspired by all his works, and miss the daily drawings that used to be on facebook. His love for these stories is so evident in these books! I would love to win!

  22. Here’s my funny Esther story: I live in an area with a large population of Orthodox Jews. Our library has a puppet show stage and bins of puppets, and at the library one day, I saw a young Orthodox girl pick up the princess puppet and show it to her mom. “Look! It’s Esther!” And the mom played along – “Yes, that’s Esther!” But then the kid started digging through the puppets saying, “Where’s Mordecai?” and the mom had to admit she probably wasn’t going to find a Mordecai puppet at the public library.

  23. Intrigued by Esther!
    And I just was just telling my mom what Tomie books to get us for Christmas so this could help her out! 😉

  24. Tomie DePaola is one of my favorite children’s authors and I haven’t read any of these! Great reviews, can’t wait to read these to my kiddos.

  25. I have had these on my wishlist forever but couldn’t find them! So glad they’re available now. We read his St. Patrick book every year.

  26. His books are absolutely a delight. Definitely definitely definitely getting some. Btw, I think some of the links on the Raffle copter are broken!

  27. I would love to introduce my daughter to these books! I love Tommie dePaola and would love to add to our book collection.

  28. I was taught that Mary didn’t die too, then just 4 days ago was doing an online Catechism quiz with an Aquinas Learning student and she corrected me! These books are beautiful, would love to share them with my children.

  29. We love Tomie de Paola and while we have several of his books, we don’t have any of these yet! Please have something be lucky in 2020!!!!

  30. I love Tomie de Paola. Song of Francis has some of my kids’ favorite illustrations so I would love to check out the other St Francis book

    1. So beautiful! Love Tomie dePaola! What a wonderful opportunity to share his gifts! Thanks for the opportunity! God Bless!

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