Strega Nona by Tomie de Paola


de Paola, TomieStrega Nona.  Aladdin, 1979.  $7.99, 32 pages.

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Reader’s Annotation:  What happens when Big Anthony is told not to touch Strega Nona’s magic pasta pot?  Of course, he touches it.


Strega Nona is the friendly town “Grandma Witch” who is getting on in her years.  She hires on Big Anthony to help her with her daily chores.  One day Big Anthony sees Strega Nona making pasta in a magic pasta pot.  When he tells the other villages about this magical cooking instrument, they laugh at him.  When Strega Nona goes out of town, Big Anthony decides to redeem himself by showing off the magic pot.  Unfortunately, Big Anthony did not hear the complete spell, and the town is soon overrun with errant pasta that will not stop flowing from the magic pasta pot.  Luckily for Big Anthony, Strega Nona returns in time to save him and the town from the pasta.  And to set things right, Big Anthony must eat all the pasta so Strega Nona can sleep in her bed and the townspeople be appeased for his mistakes.


Tomie de Paola takes an Italian folktale and transforms it into something magical in Strega Nona.  Accompanied by beautiful watercolor and ink drawings that give the story even more of a folksy feeling, Strega Nona is a classic story written in simple language.  Although magic is involved, the character must learn the age old lesson that curiosity killed the cat, or in this case, covered the town in pasta!  The plot is obviously fanciful with magic pasta pots and a “grandmother witch.”  Big Anthony is the archetypal brawns but no brains.  Strega Nona’s character is wise and just, meting out a punishment fitting the crime.  De Paola’s writing style weaves humor, magic, and folklore into a truly enjoyable read.

Rating Scale:

  • Popularity: 4
  • Quality: 4

Genre and Subgenre: fantasy, folklore

Appeal Factors: illustrations, magic

Readalike Titles or Authors:

  • Two of Everything by Lily Toy Hong
  • Big Anthony: His Story by Tomie de Paola
  • Strega Nona Does It Again! by Tomie de Paola

Awards Won and Book Lists:

  • Caldecott Honor

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Big Anthony’s characterization
  • Strega Nona’s magic pasta pot
  • The deluge of noodles

Book Discussion Questions or Ideas:

  • Why does Strega Nona choose Anthony to be her helper?
  • Will Strega Nona continue to let Anthony help her?

Why I Chose This:

I chose this title because of the magical elements in the story.  Tomie de Paola’s illustrations are also so lovely.