Childrens Book Review of Strega Nona's Magic Lessons by Tomie dePaola, Number Three in the Series

by DerdriuMarriner

A baker’s daughter dislikes ever earlier and later hours. A new hire does not stop thinking about food. The stage is set for “Strega Nona’s Magic Lessons.”

Bakers are known by the quality of the creations with which they fill their shops and the speed with which they release and replace their inventions. They traditionally cannot get the job done without being first to:
• Fall asleep while daylight still clarifies the evening hours;
• Get up while blackness still depresses the early night.

Baking professionally therefore demands:
• Access to costly resources;
• Knowledge of countless details;
• Stamina for long hours;
• Tolerance of isolating venues.

The responsibilities do not leave much free time even though they may entail much customer appreciation. Expanding clienteles and revenues generally encourage bakers to consider new hires to share increasingly demanding schedules. That is not what happens in “Strega Nona’s Magic Lessons.”




In "Strega Nona's Magic Lessons," bakeries and magic may or may not be interchangeable:

Calabria's celebrated cuisine includes such tantalizing baked goods as pitta 'mpigliata ("tangled pitta"), an orange-based sweet also redolent of cloves.
Pitta 'mpigliata
Pitta 'mpigliata


Every morning Bambolona brings bread to Strega Nona. She does her job as baker’s assistant well. So her customer base expands … as do her work hours. Bambolona therefore expects the baker to help out or hire assistants. But her father follows another tack in coping with the increased business. He gives his daughter earlier start- and later end-times. He has no intention of:

  • Diminishing time spent with his friends;
  • Diverting resources to non-family new hires.

Impressed with the big young girl’s dedication, Strega Nona hires Bambolona for a magic spells-learning apprenticeship. Bambolona’s father then hires Big Anthony as baker’s assistant. But Big Anthony is caught sleeping while rising dough invades the room. He loses his job.


Hapless Big Anthony falls asleep on his job as a baker's assistant and awakens to the frightening encroachment of endlessly rising dough.

texture of risen dough
texture of risen dough


Big Anthony can be fixated when not working and inattentive on the job. He decides that he will not take Strega Nona’s decision to train nobody but Bambolona. He disguises himself as Big Antonia. But he does not distinguish himself. Bambolona alone gets to access Strega Nona’s book of hard spells. Big Anthony gets inside the house after hours and reads the book without Strega Nona’s consent or knowledge. At the next day’s lesson, he intends to impress Bambolona and Strega Nona with his magical prowess. His magic act nevertheless is ineffective on the kitchen kettle. It instead leaves Strega Nona a frog … until Big Antonia confesses to being Big Anthony and Calabria’s Grandma Witch reappears.


In "Strega Nona's Magic Lessons," Big Anthony snoops into Strega Nona's Book of Spells but discovers that there is more to spell casting than just reading and repeating.

The Book of Spells
The Book of Spells



Tomie dePaola holds a hallowed position in the profession of creating and illustrating children’s books. He is the recipient of such impressive awards as:

  • The Caldecott Honor Book, Newbery Honor Book, and 2011 Laura Ingalls Wilder Award from The American Library Association;
  • The Governor’s Arts Award of Living Treasure from New Hampshire;
  • The Kerlan Award from the University of Minnesota;
  • The Regina Medal from the Catholic Library Association;
  • The Smithson Medal from the Smithsonian Institution.

The education-related section of his résumé additionally lists honorary doctorates from:

  • Georgetown University;
  • Pratt Institute;
  • University of Connecticut.

Natural and nurtured talents merge to produce Harcourt Brace and Company’s 1982-released Strega Nona’s Magic Lessons for:

  • Ages 4 – 8+;
  • Grades preschool through 3rd+-grade.


Strega Nona's Magic Lessons by Tomie dePaola

The popular Big Anthony tries once again to use Strega Nona’s magic with the usual hilarious and disastrous results.
Tomie dePaola's Strega Nona series



My special thanks to:

  • Talented artists and photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the Internet;
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University for superior on-campus and on-line resources.


Author-illustrator Tomie dePaola sites his Strega Nona series amid the rugged beauty of Calabria's mountain and maritime landscapes in the "toe" of the Italian Peninsula:

Calabrian panorama of mountainous landscapes, stone fence decorated with horse head sculpture, and sea in the background.
Testa di quadrupedo in cemento con il paesaggio e il mare sullo sfondo
Testa di quadrupedo in cemento con il paesaggio e il mare sullo sfondo

Sources Consulted


"About Tomie." Retrieved December 29, 2014.

  • Available at:

dePaola, Tomie. 1982. Strega Nona's Magic Lessons. San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace and Company.


the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

White bread: blue jean colored t-shirt ~ Available via AllPosters

In "Strega Nona's Magic Lessons," Big Anthony discovers that making bread may not be the easiest responsibility in the world.
White Bread
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Me and my purrfectly purrfect Maine coon kittycat, Augusta "Gusty" Sunshine

Gusty and I thank you for reading this article and hope that our product selection interests you; Gusty Gus receives favorite treats from my commissions.
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
Updated: 12/29/2014, DerdriuMarriner
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