12 Days of Books 2017/18: Merry Christmas, Strega Nona

Merry Christmas, Strega Nona story and pictures by Tomie dePaola
1986, Scholastic Inc.

For many people Christmas is over by now.  We are going back to work tomorrow, and daily life will resume somewhat as usual.  However, it actually is only Day 9!  

Today is Merry Christmas, Strega Nona, part of Tomie dePaola’s series about an Italian grandmother/witch.

In this story Strega Nona is getting ready for Christmas.  She loves it so much that she refuses to use magic to help with the work, much to the chagrin of her helper, Big Anthony, who is constantly being sent on errands.IMG_6899

She always makes a big feast for everyone at Christmas, but this year Big Anthony tells her that he has forgotten all the preparations for it, and since Strega Nona is determined to stick to her principles and not use magic, there will be no feast.

There follows a quite melancholy interlude as Strega Nona goes sadly to Mass, and comes sadly home.  This section is accompanied by some of the loveliest and most minimalist of the illustrations.IMG_6910IMG_6912
In the end it turns out that this was a surprise plan by Big Anthony so that everyone else could make the feast for Strega Nona this time.  Personally, this seems like a bit of mean trick on her, but thankfully she is quite happy about it.


Strega Nona’s Christmas Feast

Codfish stew

Roasted peppers


Fried pastry


One of the best things about this book is the charming illustrations, which have a lovely, timeless folk-art feel.  I don’t know how authentic it is to southern Italian Christmas traditions, but it is nice to add to our international selection.

We never find out why exactly Strega Nona doesn’t want to use magic for her preparations, but it can be more rewarding sometimes to do things yourself, by hand, and put in the work for something worthwhile.


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