Children's Author Tomie dePaola, Known for 'Strega Nona' Series, Dies at 85

The author suffered complications from surgery after a bad fall last week

Tomie dePaola
Photo: Mark Wilson/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Tomie dePaola, a beloved children’s book author and illustrator, has died. He was 85.

DePaola passed away after suffering complications from surgery after falling in his home in New Hampshire last week, his literary agent Doug Whiteman said, according to CNN.

Whiteman told the outlet that dePaola passed away at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, and was sadly alone because of visitor restrictions put in place due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

“Due to the coronavirus and a quarantine at the hospital where he was being treated, Mr. dePaola was in isolation when he died,” said Whiteman, according to the outlet.

The author and illustrator is perhaps best known for the Strega Nona series, which follows an Italian witch who lives in Calabria, Italy, where his grandparents were from, TIME reported in its obituary of dePaola.

Tomie dePaola
Tomie dePaola. Jim Cole/AP/Shutterstock

“I think it’s because she’s like everybody’s grandmother,” he told the Associated Press in 2013 of the friendly witch’s popularity. “She’s cute, she’s not pretty, she’s kind of funny-looking, but she’s sweet, she’s understanding. And she’s a little saucy, she gets a little irritated every once in a while.”

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Tomie dePaola
Tomie dePaola. Jonathan Fickies/Getty Images

“As a grownup, I want to give children the credit for everything I can: their courage, their humor, their love, their creative abilities, their abilities to be fair, their abilities to be unfair,” he told NPR’s All Things Considered in 1998. “But I do wish that we grownups would give children lots of credit for these ephemeral kind of qualities that they have.”

DePaola earned many accolades throughout his career, including the Children’s Literature Legacy Award in 2011 and, according to his agent, “was one of only a handful of children’s book creators to have received honors from both the Caldecott and Newbery Award committees of the American Library Association.”

He is survived by two sisters and several nieces and nephews, Whiteman told CNN.

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