"My Irish grandfather, Thomas Lawrence Downey, was a great storyteller. I loved his rendition of The Animal Fair and his explanation of why he was bald (that will remain a personal secret). I never tired of sitting on his knee—and later, when I was a bit too big, sitting at his feet with one of my baby sisters on his knee—listening to his wonderful tall tales.

Among the stories I loved the best were the ones about the Irish—and the Downey family in particular. In those tales, I'm afraid, "dramatic flair" and artistic liberties took over for fact. But as any good storyteller knows, to embellish is to make the tale interesting, especially to a young Tomie.

When I read the short tale that inspired Jamie O'Rourke and the Big Potato, I swear I could hear my grandfather Tom Downey whispering in my ear, "Jamie O'Rourke was the laziest man...". Now I hope that the next generation, sitting on someone's knees or at someone's feet, will hear the words just as I did." —Tomie dePaola