Childrens Book Review of Big Anthony and the Magic Ring by Tomie dePaola, Number Two in the Series

by DerdriuMarriner

As the saying goes, everyone dances the tarantella once. The tarantella goes with tambourine music. Strega Nona’s new hire learns its downside in “Big Anthony and the Magic Ring.”

Calabria forms the toe to southernmost Italy’s boot. The region readily gets new and repeat visitors because of:
• Arab, French, Greek, Oscan, and Spanish artifacts;
• Attractive deciduous woodlands of chestnut, olive, and orange trees;
• Byzantine-style silk production;
• Crystalline, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks;
• Fragrant coniferous forests of beech, fir, oak, and pine trees;
• Latin-true dialect;
• Spring waters;
• Warm temperature averages of 46°F (8°C) in winter and of 86°F (30°C) in summer;
• Welcoming Ionian and Tyrrhenian Sea coastlines.

It has Italy’s two highest bridges:
• Italia Viaduct;
• Sfalassa Viaduct.

It is one of the world’s most beloved venues of the tarantella -- the so-called spider-bite dance from Italy’s heel in Apulia -- mentioned in “Big Anthony and the Magic Ring.”




Italia Viaduct (Viadotto Italia): Italy's highest bridge is sited in Strega Nona's home region of Calabria in the "toe" of the Italian Peninsula ~

Viadotto Italia attains a maximum height of 850 feet (259 meters) and length of 3,809 feet (1,161 meters), with longest span at 574 feet (175 meters).
autostrada A3, near Laino Borgo, Cosenza Province, Calabria, "toe" of Italian Peninsula, southern Italy
autostrada A3, near Laino Borgo, Cosenza Province, Calabria, "toe" of Italian Peninsula, southern Italy


Strega Nona gets rave reviews from fellow villagers in Calabria, Italy. She has the knowledge necessary to handle such debilitating woes as:

  • Baldness;
  • Headaches;
  • Warts.  

She is an astute reader of animal, human, and plant nature. She immediately knows what ails her new hire when Big Anthony moves around with a fuzzier than usual brain and sleeps late. She links the behavioral changes with spring’s beginning and winter’s end. She mentions a guaranteed cure for spring fever:

  • Getting a night life;
  • Going to village dances;
  • Seeing the baker’s daughter Bambolina (“Big baby doll”) outside of morning bread deliveries.

But she must change plans when Big Anthony admits to having no clue as to Bambolona’s activities or appearance.


Big Anthony slips Strega Nona's gold ring onto the index finger of his right hand to activate his wish for popularity at the tarantella dance, but unforeseen consequences ensue.

gold ring
gold ring


Big Anthony becomes curious when Strega Nona gets a gold ring out of one of her magic cupboard’s drawers. Strega Nona goes from big-nosed senior citizen to elegant, young beauty after:

  • Putting the ring on her right hand’s first finger;
  • Singing.

Big Anthony is a witness to Strega Nona’s exciting evening as the belle of the tarantella. The next day, Strega Nona leaves to visit her godchildren for Easter. At sundown, Big Anthony metamorphosizes into an elegant hunk after repeating Strega Nona’s ring-and-sing routine. But he runs:

  • From females pushing and shoving to dance with him;
  • When singing will not work.

Strega Nona saves the day by:

  • Removing the stuck ring with olive oil;
  • Transforming Big Anthony.


Big Anthony and the Magic Ring by Tomie dePaola

"In this sequel to Caldecott Honor winner Strega Nona, “Big Anthony romps through a case of spring fever with an ill-gotten magic ring, against the architectural background and blue skies of la bella Italia.” (Booklist)
Tomie dePaola's Strega Nona series



Some readers believe that Strega Nona is traditional to Italy’s diverse folklore. But Grandma Witch comes to life through Tomie de Paola’s imagination alone. The same holds true regarding her inattentive new hire. Big Anthony in fact is named for his originator since Anthony is part of the author-illustrator’s full name, Thomas Anthony dePaola. Big Anthony’s adventures keep readers humorously interested because of the additional inputs of the staff at his publishing house, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers. Librarians and teachers link Big Anthony and the Magic Ring to literacy levels of:

  • Ages 5 - 9+;
  • Grades kindergarten through fourth grade.

But readers outside the above-mentioned confines will not be disappointed in the 1979-released classic.


Big Anthony and the Magic Ring by Tomie dePaola, read aloud by Miss Chang.

Published on YouTube on February 11, 2013 by Hillary Chang ~ URL:



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.


Viadotto Sfalassà: Italy's second highest bridge is located in Calabria, which also is the site of Italy's highest bridge, Italia Viaduct (Viadotto Italia) ~

Viadotto Sfalassà attains a height of 833 feet (254 meters), with a main span of 1,234 feet (376 meters).
Autostrada A3 Napoli-Reggio Calabria, Reggio Calabria Province, Calabria, southern Italy
Autostrada A3 Napoli-Reggio Calabria, Reggio Calabria Province, Calabria, southern Italy

Sources Consulted


dePaola, Tomie, 1979. Big Anthony and the Magic Ring. San Diego, CA: Harcourt Children's Books.


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

Italy watercolor map: black t-shirt ~ Available via AllPosters

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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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