Over the years we have read books here and there by Tomie de Paola. He is a great author and even better illustrator. I really enjoy his books! For a little Christmas fun, and a break from Prairie Primer, we decided to do an author study on Tomie de Paola for the last two weeks before our Christmas break. It has been an easy going study, reading all about him, reading several of his Christmas books, and then doing fun activities to go along with the books.
First we started out learning about Tomie de Paola himself. We read two books: Tomie de Paola by Julie Berg and Tomie de Paola by Mae Woods, and then watched a couple of videos with interviews with him. We also browsed around the Tomie de Paola website and his blog.
Then we launched into the goodness of Tomie's Christmas books. He writes in a few different ways: from his experiences as a child (especially his Italian, Irish and religious upbringing); from Christmas traditions and legends from other countries; and in retelling folktales. All of those things combined make for some rich Christmas learning. It is also cool how he can intertwine the characters, legends and traditions together from book to book. And it illustrations are just plain brilliant. They are quintessentially Tomie de Paola.
Here is what we read and the activity we did with it:
The Family Christmas Tree
As mother, father, grandmother, and children decorate together, they tell the story of how Christmas trees came to be, including the changes in size and appearance over time, and the way ornaments were first introduced. Tomie de Paola effortlessly weaves together little-known historical facts with the story of one family's traditions.
For our activity, we decorated our Christmas tree. That worked out great for me! This time I didn't get stuck decorating all by myself because decorating was an assignment! Maybe I can find a way to accomplish that every year ... hee hee!!
Four Friends at Christmas
Mister Frog has slept through Christmas every year and is determined to celebrate this one with his three best friends. But when he takes a short nap that turns into a very long sleep, he wakes up late on Christmas Eve, and there's no one to celebrate with! He's all alone until Santa and all of Frog's friends arrive with trees, food, and holiday cheer just in time for the big day!
This was another easy and self-serving activity ... we went to Oklahoma and the kids visited with their four friends! We had a great day with Paige, Maggie, Sophie, and Chloe. We tromped around Paige and Maggie's new farm their family just bought, ate lunch together, played, talked, and enjoyed some homemade goodies they gave us as Christmas gifts. Friends are important ... especially at Christmas!
Francis, The Poor Man of Assisi
In lively prose and folksy paintings, dePaola tells of the Italian brother who forsook his worldly possessions to travel from village to village helping the poor and sheltering animals.
Brother Francis loved birds, so on this day we made pinecone bird feeders to hang outside.
The Legend of the Poinsettia
This Mexican legend tells how the poinsettia came to be, through a little girl's unselfish gift to the Christ Child.
We did a fun and beautiful torn paper craft. I just printed off a Poinsettia printable and the kids tore construction paper, glued it to the templates, cut them out, and glued them on construction paper. They turned out lovely!
The Clown of God
In this retelling of the old French legend, a juggler offers to the Christ Child the only Christmas gift he has.
We made really pretty, and delicious Stained Class Cookies. These were lots of fun to make!
The Christmas Pageant
Text and illustrations retell the story of the Nativity as performed in a children's Christmas pageant.
We planned to make these cute ornaments, but didn't get to it last week. Even though we are now on Christmas break, we plan to make them this week.
Merry Christmas, Strega Nona
Strega Nona returns with her bumbling assistant, Big Anthony, and Bambolona, the baker's daughter in time for the big Christmas Eve feast. Strega Nona, who knows more about magic than anyone else, learns that Christmas has a magic of it's own.
We made magical glitter glue stars. The lights from our Christmas tree make them shine so brightly!
Other books we read by were Christmas Remembered, Hark! A Christmas Sampler, and The Legend of Old Befana.
We really enjoyed learning about Tomie de Paola and, especially, enjoyed his Christmas books. They really helped prepare us for the busy upcoming Christmas season!