Childrens Book Review of Big Anthony, His Story by Tomie dePaola, Number Seven in the Series

by DerdriuMarriner

Calabria’s beloved Grandma Witch employs Big Anthony. Her new hire has a monopoly on being aggravating. But absent-minded awkwardness may be congenital in “Big Anthony: His Story.”

Going through an awkward stage appears to inhere in being among Planet Earth’s fauna. It assumes importance in contributing to self-esteem when lessons in balance and mobility are learned. Some young animals and people nevertheless continue their clumsiness throughout life.
• Does such a thing as bumbling owe its extended shelf life to a newborn’s predisposition toward acting out scenarios of a bull let loose in a china closet?
• But what if the bumbler is the only family member ever known to be so hapless?

Nobody from his family or in the community in fact knows how to account for Big Anthony’s aggravatingly inattentive, predictable stomping from his childhood into the teen years in “Big Anthony: His Story.”




Strega Nona enjoys the traditional rhythms of life in a Calabrian village, and, in "Big Anthony: His Story," her sidekick, a transplant from northwestern Italy, finds his place, however bumbling, in Calabria as well.

Lungro, Cosenza Province, Calabria, "toe" of southern Italian Peninsula
Lungro, Cosenza Province, Calabria, "toe" of southern Italian Peninsula


Hilly, sunny Calabria’s picturesque villages appeal to Italy’s most beloved grandmotherly witch, Strega Nona. They ultimately attract a youth from the Italian peninsula’s equally fertile, historic northwest. Big Anthony indeed begins life on a farm. Abundantly tousled hair and awkward inattentiveness apparently characterize Big Anthony from birth.

  • He drenches everyone attending his christening by getting the baptismal water spilled.
  • He ensures an unforgettable first birthday by ruining the cake.

He always finds unexpected ways to complete tasks even when trying to follow instructions.

  • He gathers books and furniture onto a shelf before his exasperated teacher’s eyes.
  • His parents lose all their sheep when Anthony does not hear the negative in not leaving the animal pen’s gates open.


In his trek ever southward in search of a place to call home, Big Anthony offends Pisans by straightening their beloved tower:

The Leaning Tower of Pisa (Italian: Torre pendente di Pisa), begun on August 14, 1173 and completed in 1372, began tilting during construction in 1178.
Pisa, Tuscany, northwestern Italy
Pisa, Tuscany, northwestern Italy


His family members decide that Big Anthony must leave in order to:

  • Earn his own way;
  • Stop jeopardizing the family’s livelihood.

But the gentle giant does not seem to be able to stop overlapping with or provoking catastrophe. He experiences life in the historic Italian cultural centers of:

  • Firenze (Florence);
  • Napoli (Naples);
  • Pisa;
  • Roma (Rome).

All of the above-mentioned cities’ inhabitants heave sighs of relief when Big Anthony heads ever southward since his bumbling includes:

  • Jeopardizing Pisa’s tourism by straightening the Leaning Tower;
  • Overlapping with Mount Vesuvius’s latest volcanic eruption.

His wanderings ultimately lead Big Anthony to Calabria in one of southern Italy’s tradition-bound villages. There, he makes his mark as the village wise woman’s new hire.


Big Anthony: His Story by Tomie dePaola

Fans of Tomie dePaola’s kindly Strega Nona will love this charming look at the early days of her good-hearted but clumsy helper Big Anthony. From the day he is born, Big Anthony never pays attention.
Tomie dePaola's Strega Nona series



The world knows of Tomie dePaola as an accomplished children’s book illustrator and writer. But Thomas Anthony dePaola also points to solid experience as an educator with positions in:

  • California, at San Francisco College for Women as assistant professor;
  • Massachusetts, at Boston’s Chamberlayne Junior College and Newton’s College of the Sacred Heart as instructor;
  • New Hampshire, at Henniker’s New England College and New London’s Colby-Sawyer College as associate professor.  

His classroom experiences and pedagogical expertise reveal themselves in all of his folkloric drawings and writings. G.P. Putnam’s original publication in 1998 of the seventh installment in the beloved Strega Nona series -- Big Anthony: His Story -- still welcomes:

  • Ages 4 – 8+;
  • Grades preschool through third grade.


Telling Stories with Tomie dePaola "Funny" ~ In a collaboration with master muppeteer Jim Henson, Tomie expands Big Anthony's story beyond bumbling to affirm that laughter is the best traditional medicine.

Uploaded to YouTube on July 13, 2010 by The Jim Henson Company ~ 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.


Rusticity and traditionalism of rural life in southern Italy's Calabria region are welcomed by native-born Strega Nona and her bumbling helper, northwestern Italy transplant Big Anthony, in Tomie dePaola's Strega Nona series.

Fedula, hamlet of San Lorenzo del Vallo, Cosenza Province, Calabria, southern Italy
Fedula, hamlet of San Lorenzo del Vallo, Cosenza Province, Calabria, southern Italy

Sources Consulted


"About Tomie: Biography." Retrieved December 31, 2014.

  • Available at:

dePaola, Tomie. 1998. Big Anthony, His Story. New York, NY: G.P. Putnam's Sons.


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

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

Tomie dePaola sets his Strega Nona series in Italy, in Calabria in the toe of the Italian Peninsula.
Italy Watercolor Map
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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: 12/31/2014, DerdriuMarriner
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