Thursday, March 8, 2012

[BOOK REVIEW] Strega Nona's Gift by Tomie dePaola

Title:  Strega Nona's Gift

Author:  Tomie dePaola

Genre: Christmas / Humor / Italy

Year Published: 2011

Year Read: 2012

Series: Strega Nona #10

Publisher:  Nancy Paulsen Books

Source:  Library

Content Rating:  Ages 5+ (Nothing Objectionable)

Ever since I was a child, I have been reading Tomie dePaola’s popular “Strega Nona” series and I have almost read every single book in the “Strega Nona” series!  So when I started looking for some more “Strega Nona” books to read, I was really surprised to find this little gem, “Strega Nona’s Gift” which was just recently made in 2011.  “Strega Nona’s Gift” is a Laura Ingalls Wilder Award-winning book by Tomie dePaola and it basically details the various Christmas celebrations that are celebrated in Italy, with Strega Nona being the one hosting the celebrations.  “Strega Nona’s Gift” is a truly wonderful book for children who want to learn more about the Christmas traditions celebrated in Italy.

Basically, this book mainly details the different types of Christmas fiestas that are celebrated in Italy including the “Feast of San Nicola” which is “the feast of Saint Nicholas” in Italian and it is where the children are allowed to choose their favorite meals on December 6th.  Another holiday tradition celebrated in Italy is the “feast of La Vigilia” which is “the feast of Christmas Eve” in Italian and it is celebrated on December 24th and it is where the feast celebrates the birth of Jesus and no meat is allowed to be eaten and instead, the tradition is to eat seven courses of seafood which includes eel.  This story is also about how Strega Nona and Big Anthony celebrated Christmas with the villagers.

When I first picked up this book, I was thinking about what other kinds of adventures that Strega Nona and Big Anthony could possibly get into. Well, I was definitely pleasantly surprised by the turn of events in this little book!  Tomie dePaola, whose work is well known for being hilarious and heartwarming at the same time, has done it again in this latest installation of the “Strega Nona” novels.  I really loved the fact that in this story, it is set up more like learning about the traditions celebrated in Italy during Christmas time, while having Strega Nona and Big Anthony as the main characters.  Basically there are many traditions celebrated during Christmas and here it is:

8 Days of Christmas celebrations celebrated in Italy:

  1. Feast of San Nicola (December 6)
  2. Feast of Santa Lucia (December 13)
  3. Feast of La Vigilia – Christmas Eve (December 24)
  4. Christmas (December 25)
  5. The Feast of San Silvestro (December 31)
  6. Il Capodanno – New Year’s Day (January 1)
  7. The Eve of Epifania – Epiphany (January 5)
  8. Feast of Epifania – Epiphany (January 6)

I also loved how Strega Nona is the one hosting the Christmas festivities for the village, because even though the majority of the book is spent on explaining to the readers about the traditions being celebrated in Italy during Christmas time, Strega Nona still plays a major role in this story as being the one who hosts the festivities.  I also loved the way that Tomie dePaola made this story extremely heartwarming and sweet as it shows the villagers and Strega Nona celebrating the spirit of Christmas and having a good time with each other.  I was actually surprised that Big Anthony’s mistake in this book was not as major as it was in “Strega Nona” or “Strega Nona meets her Match,” since I was expecting a huge catastrophe to happen once Big Anthony is in the picture, but I was satisfied with the soothing mood of this book and I loved how Tomie dePaola handled Big Anthony’s mistake in this book.  Tomie dePaola’s illustrations are just as cute as ever as Strega Nona is a short woman that still wears her classic purple dress and white apron and also wears a white shawl over her head, which makes her look extremely wise.  I also loved the illustrations of all the food that Strega Nona prepares including fish, lentils, cakes and turkeys.

Overall, “Strega Nona’s Gift” is a brilliant book that teaches children about how holidays are celebrated in other countries and children will surely enjoy this book for many years! I would recommend this book to children ages five and up since the Italian phrases might be difficult for younger children to understand.

Also, check out Strega Nona’s first holiday book, “Merry Christmas, Strega Nona!”

*  Laura Ingalls Wilder Award


  1. I haven't read a de Paola book in ages. I need to plan a trip to the bookstore and get at least one for my granddaughter. Thanks for the reminder!

    1. You're welcome Satia! You should definitely check out the other "Strega Nona" books in the series! They are really excellent! My favorites are "Strega Nona," "Strega's Nona Magic Lessons," "Strega Nona meets her Match" and "Big Anthony and the Magic Ring." I will post my reviews for those books in a few weeks!