Thursday, December 5, 2013

Merry Christmas, Strega Nona


I love all of the Strega Nona books, but this one was a sweet surprise.  Tomie dePaola tells a great story and manages to introduce lots of new vocabulary, people and places and in a way that informs young readers without insulting their intelligence.

For those of you familiar with the Strega Nona series, you know that Big Anthony rarely does anything right.  He is the bumbling foil to Strega Nona's wise matriarch.  He wreaks havoc everywhere he goes and Strega Nona teaches him life lessons along the way.

As the town of Calabria prepares for Christmas, Strega Nona entrusts Big Anthony with important tasks to help her prepare her annual Christmas Eve feast.  Naturally, Anthony wants her to use her magic instead of expecting him to work, but she steadfastly refuses each time saying, "Christmas has a magic of its own."

Anthony sets off to run errands for Strega Nona, but gets distracted and returns empty-handed, effectively ruining Strega Nona's traditional feast for the entire town.  Strega Nona sadly heads down the hill to the church for Midnight Mass as the townspeople whisper around her about their poor fortune in not being treated to a feast this year. 

After the mass, she trudges up the hill to her little house to find Big Anthony's Christmas gift to her.  He and Bambolona the baker's daughter have prepared the feast and all the townspeople are present to wish her a Merry Christmas.  Strega Nona is thrilled that Anthony has finally to do without magic and Anthony experiences the real magic of Christmas - the joy of serving others.

Merry Christmas, Strega Nona is a gentle, sweet reminder about the things that should be most important to us during the Christmas season.  Take time to read it with your children this year and be sure to look for the winged angels watching the events of the story unfold.

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