Childrens Book Review of Brava, Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola, Number Nine in the Series

by DerdriuMarriner

Strega Nona aims to help and to please. Calabria's wise woman has common sense, herbal remedies, and magic spells. She informs readers of life's own magic in “Brava, Strega Nona!”

Some events, people, and things appear magical because their occurrence and presence resist explanation by commonplace means.

Other happenings, objects, and personalities are not magical even though their appearance and existence superficially militate against interpretations other than through extraordinary measures. Peninsular Italy’s most grandmotherly witch can be considered an authority in both regards. She draws upon magic lotions, potions, remedies, and spells only after the failure of:
• hard work;
• herbal remedies;
• human nature.

The deep truth of esteeming life as a miracle that ensues from and provides for its own magic emerges from what she knows based upon her experiences and those of her mentor, Grandma Concetta, in “Brava, Strega Nona!: A Heartwarming Pop-up Book.”




Tomie dePaola sets his Strega Nona series in Calabria, a sea-blessed region in the "toe" of the Italian Peninsula.



The life story of Strega Nona in peninsular Italy’s southwesternmost region of hilly, sunny Calabria can be accessed:

  • Bit by bit in the series’ various installments;
  • In one fell swoop through Brava, Strega Nona!: A Heartwarming Pop-up Book in 2008 and with Strega Nona: Her Story from 1996.

The first-mentioned biography emerges as a child’s equivalent of inspirational literature -- preceded by autobiographical pictures and words -- while the second-mentioned narrative functions as a third-person compilation of information straight from the autobiographical source herself. The former source then leads into the most personal interaction thus far with Calabria’s Grandma Witch Nona since -- unlike the latter -- it gives Strega Nona’s philosophical perspectives on life’s magic-filled aspects.


Pop-ups provide aesthetic, fun, tactile rapport with Tomie dePaola's Strega Nona story.

pop-up of Strega Nona as epitome of love
pop-up of Strega Nona as epitome of love


Extraordinary and ordinary people alike access six magic-filled aspects to life. Miracles happen every day because of:

  • Celebrations;
  • Family;
  • Foods;
  • Friends;
  • Love;
  • Patience.

Each ingredient is accompanied by its equivalent in Italian. It also links with its own interactive pop-up which stands about 8 – 9 inches (20.32 – 22.86 centimeters) up from the page, with:

  • A bounteous feast for food;
  • A genealogical tree for family;
  • Houses with people-filled doors and windows which close and open;
  • Overflowing pasta for patience, from Big Anthony’s forbidden access to Strega Nona’s self-actuating pot;
  • Village square dominated by a water-twirling fountain and filled with people.

And last but not least, the secret ingredient of love warrants a huggable stand-up of Grandma Witch Nona.


Brava, Strega Nona!: A Heartwarming Pop-Up Book by Tomie dePaola, Robert Sabuda, and Matthew Rinehart

In six spreads of pop-up magnificence, paper engineered by the renowned #1 New York Times bestselling team of Sabuda and Reinhart, Strega Nona shares her words of wisdom for leading a magical life, all rendered in Tomie dePaola’s classic style.
Tomie dePaola's Strega Nona series



Brava, Strega Nona!: A Heartwarming Pop-up Book accommodates parents, readers, and teachers of all ages. It carries simple, timeless, upbeat deep truths whose message of enduring, reassuring wisdom can be summarized as “Life is filled with magic because of celebrations, family, food, friends, love, and patience.” It unforgettably communicates the above-mentioned life-affirming, magical, miraculous words thanks to the glorious inputs of:

  • Tomie dePaola as author and illustrator;
  • G.P. Putnam’s Books for Young Readers as publisher;
  • Matthew Reinhart as illustrator and paper engineer;
  • Robert Sabuda as illustrator and paper engineer.  

Originally released in 2008, the storybook cooperates with group- and individual-tailored activities which relate to:

  • Cultural enrichment;
  • Educational entertainment;
  • Family fun;
  • Folkloric, pop-up, and 3-D art;
  • Italian language-learning.


Vidéo Tomie Depaola Brava Strega Nona

Published on YouTube on May 6, 2012 by Julien Laparade ~ URL:



My special thanks to talented artists and photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the internet.


Tomie dePaola's Strega Nona is a timeless character whose life style highlights the natural beauty of town and village life in rural Calabria.

town of Santa Severina, Crotone Province
Calabrian panorama
Calabrian panorama

Sources Consulted


dePaola, Tomie. 2008. Brava, Strega Nona! A Heartwarming Pop-Up Book. Paper engineered by Matthew Reinhart and Robert Sabuda. New York, NY: G.P. Putnam's Books for Young Readers.

Matthew WordPress Theme by Kadence Themes. Retrieved January 3, 2015.

  • Available at:


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: 10/19/2021, DerdriuMarriner
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