Thursday, August 19, 2010

Book Review: Strega Nona, Her Story

At last! Witch Mom is reviewing a children's book! I look forward to finding and reviewing more books suitable for pagan families (publishers- please note!) as time goes on.

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
ISBN: 0-698-11814-6

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
In all, a charming tale that pagan and/or other open-minded families can get behind.  The story wanders and rambles a bit, but is worth a read!


  1. FINALLY! Someone wrote a "For Kids" story about Stregas. Maybe other Pagans will follow suit to help clear things up?

    Why am I happy about this? Because I am noticing a certain trend in Hollywood these days--of maligning the witch again. Has anyone seen STREK 3? How about "Supernatural" Tv Series? I AM A FAN of "Supernatural" but it upsets me when witches there are depicted as followers of Satan ("Swap Meat" - Season 5). As for Stregas, one episode in Season 2 had defined Stregas as literally life-sucking supernatural beings.

    I wondered if the Witches League for Public Awareness had written the show's producers and given them kits. I only gave comments about the writers doing more research in 2 columns about the show.

    Thank you, Lilly and Mr. TOmie.

  2. Wow, since I watch all my TV selectively on Hulu (we don't have an actual TV, and we see things on a laptop), I had no idea about how Stregas were being portrayed on television. I cannot say that I am surprised, though. It is rather disappointing, but happens all too often.

    On a happier, note, I recently re-watched "Practical Magic" (the movie) on DVD and was charmed again by how witches are the protagonists in the story and the people that oppress them are the extremists. And that HOUSE! I want that house!

  3. Sorry, the spelling should have been "Shrek 3." Thanks much.

  4. Yes, that HOUSE is beautiful. (In my case, am more after the location.)

    Anyway, for my co-readers, I am glad for the few (too few) positive images of witches on TV that I have been fortunate enough to have seen--as long as we take away the spectacular depictions of instant magical powers: Willow in "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer"; Cassandra Nightingale in "The Good Witch's Garden"; and, the Halliwell sisters in "Charmed." Of course, the characters in Harry Potter's world.

    It's just that, when I see something popular like SHREK 3...grrr.

  5. Aww...I remember this book from my childhood! I even had an audio cassette accompaniment for it...thank you for shining a light on it that I had never known before!

  6. Actually, I was just thinking of the character last Monday as I as leaving work...I've been dabbling with yeast breads and was picturing the town run over with bread instead of pasta :)


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