Strega Nona means “Grandma Witch,” and it’s her classic tale that Tomie dePaola gave to children thirty years ago. Though the townspeople whisper about Strega Nona, they still see her when they have trouble since they know she can help them. When she hires and assistant named Big Anthony, she gives him one simple warning: Don’t touch the pasta pot. It’s an enchanted pot that can make oodles of noodles! When she leaves to visit another village, Big Anthony ignores her warning and turns the pot on – and invites the entire village to dinner. There’s only one little problem. Big Anthony doesn’t know how to turn off the pot and noodles are getting everywhere. Without their “Grandma Witch,” the town will be overrun by noodles!
There is a rich simplicity in dePaola’s illustrations. Their muted colors and strong lines give the impression of a time long ago. The clothes the people wear, the little houses of the village, and the peacock perched on the cover add to the unique place they live in and help give extra life to any child’s imagination – as does a magical pot spilling out noodles everywhere. A disregard for warnings and dealing with the consequences can remind children to do as their told in the future, but for the most part they’ll just enjoy the fun the book provides them.
Out of all the children’s books in 1999, it won the Caldecott Honor award and with good reason. Parents, siblings, grandparents, and friends still ask book sellers for Strega Nona, either to give to preschool age children or kids as old as eight.