Strega Nona’s Harvest by Tomie dePaola
Anyone may know my regard for picture book author, Tomie dePaola. I suppose I have a soft spot in my maternal heart for him and the equally maternal creation of his imagination – Strega Nona aka Grandma Witch. Dispenser of advice on everything from wart cures to love potions, Strega Nona and her adventures, starting with her famous pasta pot, with aid provided by her helper, the well-intentioned, but bumbling Big Anthony, kept my now grown daughters in thrall for years.
In Strega Nona’s Harvest, the kindly Nona is busy with her stalwart helpers, Big Anthony of course (who doesn’t pay attention) and the always eagerly helpful Bambolona. They are her assistants and students at the start of the planting season.
The book, along with Tomie’s usually delightful narrative adventure of his multitalented Italian witch, is interwoven with interesting hints and tidbits for the youngest of gardeners. For instance, seeds are to be planted, according to Strega Nona, when the moon is right as she consults her libro de giardino – Garden Book. Neatly written down are the names of plants from the year before, and when and where they were planted. “We have to move them around so the soil will stay happy and strong.” This is one Nona who knows a thing or two about crop rotation.
Kids will gain a lesson in Italian vegetable translations as she plants her giardino:
zucca – squash or pumpkins
fagliolo – peas
cavolo – cabbage
melone – melon
pomodoro – tomato
melanzane – egg plant
carciofo – artichoke
Strega Nona, true to her heritage, has an ingrediente segreto, secret ingredient, dispensed along with the planting of seeds by the light of the moon. She sings a song as she did to her famous or infamous pasta pot.
O Bella Luna, smile on me,
And on the seeds I sew,
And let the moonbeams shine from thee,
To make my garden grow
Followed by the blowing of the three kisses to the moon, Strega Nona’s season of growth is assured.
Assured also is the inevitability that Big Anthony observing her closely by stealth, will blow not three, but six kisses to guarantee his garden will teach the bossy Bambolona a thing or two about gardening. Mamma mia! Can disaster be far behind? Will bounty turn into bedlam? Will Strega Nona in her generosity and wisdom find a way to spread the overflow so all in need may share? You bet your melanzane she will!
Tomie has again written a tale with harvest themes that hums along with the special de Paola blending of story and art that have kept picture book enthusiasts happy for decades. This one is no exception and so…Arrivederci, buonanotte!
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