Strega Nona, Her Story is a charming kid's book about how the author (Tomie dePaola) learns Stregheria (Italian Hereditary Witchcraft).
Historically, Stregheria is an oral tradition, passed down family lines through apprenticeships like the ones described in this book. However, authors like Raven Grimassi have published books on Stregheria in modern times, causing an oral tradition to go more public than ever before. Due to the publication of so many books, Stregheria as a term is now also conflated with its modern, non-hereditary offshoots).
But I digress: Let's talk about the book! In Strega Nona, Her Story, Nona is born, named, and immediately proclaimed a future Strega by Grandma Concetta- who is her blood relative, her midwife, and her future teacher. Soon after she can walk, Nona is learning wildcrafting, herbalism, cooking, and spellwork at Concetta's home. Tomie, the author, chronicles the tale of how his teacher (Strega Nona) becomes an old-school village Strega who ultimately, in turn, teaches him.
Part fantasy, part actual history, it is a charming tale that does not villianize witchcraft in the slightest nor does it exoticize it (the two crazy extremes I tend to see in children's books). And for that, Witch Mom is truly grateful!
The illustrations are charming and colorful and will easily hold a child's attention. To use this book effectively, I recommend reading it directly to kids at storytime, showing the pictures after finishing each page. Because of its use of Italian phrases here and there and larger vocabulary words in general, it is not a "learn to read" book.
I picked this up without knowing that this is one in a series of Strega Nona books. I look forward to reading some of the others:
Formal Rating:Title: Strega Nona, Her Story
Author: Tomie DePaola
Publisher: Puffin Books
Price: $6.99 USD, $9.99 CAN
Topics Covered: Stregheria, witchcraft, midwifery, herbalism, permaculture, cooking, and Italian heritage.
Target Audience: Children ages 4-8
Witch Mom Rating: Two and a Half Hats