Childrens Book Review of Strega Nona Takes a Vacation by Tomie dePaola, Number Eight in the Series

by DerdriuMarriner

Nobody must be so indispensable as to work 24 - 7. Everybody needs time off. Calabria’s grandmotherly witch finally realizes the two deep truths in “Strega Nona Takes a Vacation.”

Time off from work assumes its most acceptable expressions as:
• approved days away from the regular schedule;
• floating, official, and personal paid holidays;
• reimbursed vacation times.
It can be difficult to accommodate any of the above-mentioned configurations when the job is demanding and resources remain tight. Being respected for doing a job well nevertheless encourages such appreciation as generous benefit packages and pay scales.

What happens when the object of communal esteem is the only person deemed essential and qualified for a critical, sensitive position? That is the dilemma of Italy’s quintessential Grandma Witch of hill-topped, tradition-bound Calabria. She and her loyal customers ultimately realize the deep truth of down-time in “Strega Nona Takes a Vacation.”




In "Strega Nona Takes a Vacation," Strega Nona awakens from dreams of visits to her deceased Grandma Concetta's seaside cottage:

Calabria's port city of Reggio di Calabria is separated from Sicily by the Strait of Messina.
view of port city of Reggio di Calabria, Reggio Calabria Province, Calabria, southern Italy
view of port city of Reggio di Calabria, Reggio Calabria Province, Calabria, southern Italy


It does not take a practitioner of magic for dreamers to pay attention to their dreams. Calabria’s most esteemed, traditional Grandma Witch indeed focuses her attention upon:

  • Observations during waking hours;
  • Signs from sleeping hours.

She gets what only can be a timely warning against too little play and too much work. She has dreams of:

  • Grandma Concetta in her heavenly abode;
  • Long-ago vacations in the above-mentioned mentor’s earthly, seaside cottage of retirement.

She is distracted by dream-communicated reminiscences and overwhelmed by work-related stress. She nevertheless lets the notion of time off drop until the village mayor does not receive the correct remedy for headaches. Customer satisfaction means so much that Strega Nona immediately leaves on vacation.


Strega Nona enjoys her seaside vacation, with beach walks and sea swims against a gorgeous palette of sunrises and sunsets:

Calabria, bordered westward by Tyrrhenian Sea and eastward by Ionian Sea, is a maritime region in the "toe" of the Italian Peninsula.
view from Reggio Calabria with Sicily in the distance
view from Reggio Calabria with Sicily in the distance


What can go wrong? Grandma Witch Nona gets to:

  • Eat fresh-caught fish;
  • Enjoy gorgeous sunrises and sunsets;
  • Exercise through beach walks and sea swims.

For her customers, she gives Bambolona, the baker Signor Bambo’s daughter, responsibility for dispensing remedies. She has Big Anthony responsible for garden and household chores. She hopes that Big Anthony will stay away from the self-actuating pot for making pasta. She is appreciative of her time away from her busy magic practice but aware of the stresses upon two assistants working with one less staff person. She plans to take both on subsequent vacations after Bambolona grabs candy intended for Big Anthony and Big Anthony wreaks havoc with bubble bath intended for Bambolona.


Childish exchanges, such as taking candy and wrecking a bubble bath, convince Strega Nona upon her return that vacations are in order for those whom she left in charge, Bambolona and Big Anthony.

bath bubbles
bath bubbles



Tomie dePaola’s illustrations and texts attest to abiding sensitivities to:

  • Animals and plants;
  • Cultural enrichment;
  • Educational entertainment;
  • Family fun;
  • Folkloric styles of drawing and writing;
  • Italian language-learning.

They perhaps draw their inspiration from Thomas Anthony dePaola’s experiences as:

  • Descendant of Italian ancestors through the paternal line of his father, Joseph dePaola;
  • Graduate of bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. programs in fine arts;
  • Housemate of Airedale terrier Brontë;
  • Resident of a 200-year-old converted barn in New London, New Hampshire;
  • Stage performer of songs and tap dances.

All of the above-mentioned talents shine in the eighth installment of the Grandma Witch series, Strega Nona Takes a Vacation, for:

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


Strega Nona Takes a Vacation by Tomie dePaola

One night Strega Nona has a dream about her Grandma Concetta, who has been in heaven for many years, and her little house at the seashore. Nona decides that she will take a vacation there.
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.


Strega Nona Takes a Vacation

Published on YouTube on February 3, 2014 by Nicole Reynolds ~ URL:

Sources Consulted


"About Tomie: Biography." Retrieved January 2, 2015.

  • Available at:

dePaola, Tomie. 2000. Strega Nona Takes a Vacation. 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: 08/02/2021, DerdriuMarriner
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