In his newest book, "Guess Who's Coming to Santa's for Dinner?," dePaola imagines a gathering of Santa Claus' closest relatives at his home. Like any reunion, the Claus family has its eccentric members, including an opera-singing sister, an uncle with a pet polar bear, a kleptomaniac aunt and a flaming plum pudding.
DePaola said he got the idea from a Christmas card he received one year from his travel agent. The card had a vintage photo of an opera soprano wearing a Viking helmet. The greeting read something to the effect of: "Christmas greetings from Ulga Claus, Santa's less popular sister."
"I got hysterical," dePaola said. "I thought, 'Of course, Santa has a family. Of course, they're a weird family like mine is.'"
dePaola is a Caldecott and Newbery award winner who has an optimistic outlook on life.
These days, the author receives more than 100,000 pieces of fan mail each year. Children tell him how much they love the book. Teachers and parents write to thank him for the impact he has on their students and children.
He says he delights in writing for young children.
"Books and art meant so much to me growing up," he said. "I want to be a part of that legacy."