Front Porch Tales & North Country Whoppers by Tomie dePaola
A very sweet book with some hysterical stories, including one in particular that I had the opportunity to ask Tomie about. I had the great opportunity to interview Tomie for the Society of Children's Books Writers and Illustrators in honor of Tomie's winning The Society of Illustrators' Lifetime Achievement Award. It's a three part interview - one, two, three, and here's an excerpt from where we discussed Front Porch Tales:
Lee: Yeah. So your Story “Settin” in your folk-tale compilation “Front Porch Tales and North Country Whoppers” has two really unexpected elements – one was that fish-out-of-water experience of the couple of non-New-Hampshire natives experiencing an authentic “Settin," which totally cracked me up.
Tomie: That's a true story!
Lee: And then that the couple are “two young fellas livin’ in an old fahmhouse out theyah on the Greendale Road.”
Tomie: That's right. I could show you the farmhouse tomorrow if you come up. (Laughs)
Lee: Is that a gay couple? Or did you intend to leave it up to the reader to decide who they are to each other?
Tomie: Actually, we didn't know we were gay at the time. We were both, we were living in this farmhouse because we had a spiritual ideal, we were going to become - this was a very popular thing in the far-out Catholic Church in the 50's - it was called a Lay Institute, I think. We met in a monastery, and we wanted to have kind of like a little, simple monastery. And we had no idea that we were... I mean, I knew I was gay, but Jack, he was older than I was and he didn't know he was gay. And we didn't live a gay life, we lived a life of two friends. And that actually happened, that whole thing of sitting there with no one saying a word! (Laughs.)
Lee: That hysterical. For me, as a reader looking at it, I got really excited. I was like, 'wow, it's a gay couple in this great story, and it's not really about their being gay, it's just this hysterical story.'
Tomie: That's actually what it is, yeah. And it was very interesting, because it wasn't that long after that we both realized that oh, wait a minute. This is more than a religious experience here, our living together. But talk about being accepted... Jack and I were terribly accepted in this little village in Western Vermont. People loved us. They called us 'the two fellas,' you know? So I guess, if you don't walk down the street in a dress, you're all right.
Lee: We'll get the world to where people can walk down the street wearing whatever they want.
Tomie: Yeah. That's right. Exactly. You can in Vermont now. Vermont was one of the first New England states to legalize Gay Marriage, you know?
Lee: Yeah, that's terrific.
It was very exciting for me to see this sweet and funny anthology of stories for children include a gay couple.
And it's great to know that this GIANT in the world of children's books is openly gay. Tomie also has eight books (so far) in his wonderful autobiographical chapter book series, 26 Fairmount Avenue.
|The first book in the series|
It's lovely to read them knowing that the little boy in these books grows up to be a man who fell in love with another man... like me.
It's certainly a book I wish I had read when I was a child. And now, I read them for my inner child!
I hope you will, too.