Childrens Book Review of Strega Nona: Her Story as Told to Tomie dePaola, Number Six in the Series

by DerdriuMarriner

Celebrities become famous for their talents. They also get known through autobiographies and biographers. That is what prompts “Strega Nona: Her Story,” as Told to Tomie dePaola.

Storytellers are not obliged to tell all.

They choose to share or withhold details. They generally decide not to reveal everything when they allow for or mull over the possibility of a series. Details also emerge spontaneously as the storyteller progresses from book to book.

Or they find their inclusion influenced by avid readers requesting back-story data and prequel information. Such happens in the case of Tomie dePaola’s lovable, super-popular witch, Strega Nona. Grandma Witch is the artist – author’s own creation. So her inventor literally makes it up as he goes along.

Her popularity prompts her narrator to do what all biographers and celebrities do: gather her life history into the autobiographical, biographical “Strega Nona: Her Story.”




Tomie dePaola's heartwarming Strega Nona has a penchant for traditional wisdom, including such natural remedies as wild garlic (Aglio selvatico) for upset stomachs.

flowers of Aglio selvatico
flowers of Aglio selvatico


Nona can be:

  • The diminutive “Grandma” for Nonna (“Grandmother”);
  • The feminine proper namesake of ancient Rome’s goddess of pregnancy;
  • The feminine singular ordinal adjective meaning “ninth.”

All three possibilities describe the baby delivered:

  • By Grandma Concetta;
  • To the Calabrian villager Giuseppe’s young wife;
  • With Zia Rosa’s help.

Nona dominates Concetta’s lessons in:

  • Aglio selvatico (“wild garlic”) for upset stomachs;
  • Rosmarino (“rosemary”) for baldness and furniture-polishing.

She enjoys borrowing hair ribbons after helping Amelia spell and write at convent school. With Amelia, she learns from Concetta’s big book of spells lotions and potions for:

  • Headaches;
  • Warts.

The girls leave for L’Accademia delle Streghe. Amelia loves:

  • The Academy of Witches’ machines and science;
  • The city’s bustle, noise, and shops.


In "Strega Nona: Her Story," Strega Nona displays creative use of traditional remedies by sliding a goat back down a roof via slippery olive oil:

olive tree plantations in Calabria
Bagaladi environs, Reggio Calabria Province, Calabria, southern Italy
Bagaladi environs, Reggio Calabria Province, Calabria, southern Italy


Nona abandons studies for:

  • Country walks;
  • Traditional practice.

Amelia completes the Academy’s diploma-conferring requirements. She employs the modern Moving Things Up spell to relocate Concetta’s goat to the roof. But only Nona’s applying olive oil gets the goat to slide back down from the roof. Amelia goes off to the bigger, busier town on the mountain’s other side. Nona contrastingly helps to:

  • Clean and polish Concetta’s magic pot for making steaming hot pasta with a secret, special-tasting ingredient;
  • Inject heartfelt kindness and spirit into old spells.

Upon retiring to the seashore, Concetta leaves Nona the house with:

  • Dove, goat, peacock, and rabbit;
  • Herb garden;
  • Instructions about making pasta with love’s secret ingredient;
  • Pasta-making pot;
  • Remedies;
  • Spells book.


Strega Nona is comfortable with traditional ways of being, easier to observe in Calabria's villages:

village of Conflenti, Catanzaro Province, Calabria, southern Italy
village panorama
village panorama



Tomie dePaola admits to:

  • Advising his parents of his artistic aspirations at age 4;
  • Planning his artistic and literary creations with four-year-old audiences in mind;
  • Respecting the art of Fra Angelico (1395? – February 18, 1455), Giotto (1267? – January 8, 1337), Georges Rouault (May 27, 1871 – February 13, 1958), and Ben Shahn (September 12, 1898 – March 14, 1969).  

He additionally describes folk art inspirations with:

  • Bold colors;
  • Confident lines;
  • Deceptive simplicity.

The above-mentioned inputs merge most pleasingly with those of:

  • Patrick Collins as type designer;
  • G.P. Putnam’s Sons as publisher;
  • South China Printing Co. Ltd. as printer.

Painted with watercolors and typeset in Palatino, the 1996 publication welcomes:

  • Ages 5 – 9+;
  • Grades kindergarten to fourth grade and onward.


Strega Nona: Her Story by Tomie dePaola

Tomie dePaola serves as "biographer" to his delightful Italian sorceress, Strega Nona, in this beautifully drawn prequel.
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.


Telling Stories with Tomie "Scary" ~ Tomie's Strega Nona character has also been interpreted through collaboration with Jim Henson ~

Published on YouTube on October 26, 2012 by The Jim Henson Company ~ URL:

Sources Consulted


dePaola, Tomie. 1996. Strega Nona: Her Story as Told to Tomie dePaola. New York, NY: G.P. Putnam's Sons.

dePaola. "Spotlight On ... Strega Nona. Retrieved December 31, 2014.

  • 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

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: 02/27/2020, DerdriuMarriner
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