Strega Nona is a children's book written and illustrated by Tomie dePaola. If considered as a folktale, the story is Aarne-Thompson type 565, the Magic Mill. It concerns Strega Nona ("Grandma Witch" in Italian, though it is actually spelled as nonna) and her helper, Big Anthony. Big Anthony causes the title character's magic pasta pot to create so much pasta that it nearly floods and buries a town. The book, which is likely dePaola's best-known work, was published in 1975 and won a Caldecott Honor in 1976.[1][2] It was one of the "Top 100 Picture Books" of all time in a 2012 poll by School Library Journal.[3]

Strega Nona
Strega Nona (Tomie dePaola book) cover art.jpg
Cover with correct "an original tale..." subtitle
AuthorTomie dePaola
Original titleStrega Nonna
IllustratorTomie dePaola
PublisherPrentice Hall
Media typePrint (Hardcover)
LC ClassPZ8.1.D43 St


Set in Calabria, in southern Italy, the book focuses on the exploits of Strega Nona. She is a sort of witch doctor noted throughout her home village for her numerous successful remedies. She helps her fellow villagers with their troubles, most notably by curing headaches, helping single women find husbands, and ridding people of warts.

Because she is getting old, Strega Nona employs the assistance of a young man named Big Anthony to do the household chores. Knowing that he pays little attention, Strega Nona informs Big Anthony of his duties carefully and clearly, adding only one restriction - never to touch her magic pasta pot. Big Anthony complies, but one night he secretly observes Strega Nona singing a spell to the magic pasta pot to produce large amounts of cooked spaghetti noodles; the man is impressed, but unfortunately, he fails to notice that she blows kisses to the pot three times to stop the pasta production.

Big Anthony tries to share his discovery with the townsfolk the next day, but he is laughed at and disbelieved. He vows to one day impress them by making the pasta pot cook by himself. He gets his chance two days later when Strega Nona leaves to visit her friend Strega Amelia and leaves the house in his care. The moment she is gone, Big Anthony gets out the pasta pot and successfully conjures up large amounts of pasta, which he then serves to the townsfolk. However, since Big Anthony cannot stop the pot from cooking, the spaghetti gradually cover Strega Nona's house and nearly floods the entire town. Disaster is averted when Strega Nona returns and immediately blows the three kisses to stop the pot's cooking.

The townsfolk want to lynch Big Anthony, but Strega Nona intervenes, saying "the punishment must fit the crime," and hands a fork to Big Anthony and commands him to eat all the pasta he has conjured. By nightfall, he is stuffed.


Detail of title page of an early printing with incorrect "an old tale retold..." subtitle

Although the cover and title page of early printings of the book stated that Strega Nona is "an old tale retold and illustrated by Tomie dePaola", in truth dePaola invented the character and the story himself.[4] He wrote the words "Strega Nona" next to a doodle of a woman's head he drew in the early 1970s and later made her the main character in his story based on the Sweet Porridge fairy tale.[5] Later printings of the book bear the accurate subtitle "an original tale written and illustrated by Tomie dePaola".

In the Italian language, the word "strega" means "witch" and the word "nonna" means "grandmother", misspelled as "nona" in the book title. Hence "Strega Nona" means "Grandma Witch".[5] It is clear in the stories, mainly Strega Nona, Her Story, that Nona is the character's actual name.[5]

Other booksEdit

Strega Nona and Big Anthony also appear in other books by dePaola, including:

  • Big Anthony and the Magic Ring (1979): Introduces Bambolona, "the baker's daughter."
  • Strega Nona's Magic Lessons (1982): Big Anthony disguises himself as a girl and takes magic lessons from Strega Nona, who is also teaching Bambolona.
  • Merry Christmas, Strega Nona (1986): Strega Nona abandons her usual pursuits in order to prepare a Christmas dinner for the entire town.
  • Strega Nona Meets Her Match (1993): Her friend Strega Amelia sets up a modern cure shop which competes with Strega Nona's cure shop.
  • Strega Nona: Her Story (1996): Covers Strega Nona's life, telling the readers how she got the magic pasta pot and learned her magic (it all came from the help of her grandmother, Grandma Concetta).
  • Big Anthony, His Story (1998): Tells of his life since childhood and how his family noticed that Big Anthony simply does not pay attention.
  • Strega Nona Takes a Vacation (2000): Strega Nona goes on vacation and sends gifts of candy and bubble baths to Bambolona and Big Anthony.
  • Brava, Strega Nona! A Heartwarming Pop-Up Book (2008): Strega Nona gives advice about life.
  • Strega Nona's Harvest (2009): Strega Nona teaches Big Anthony about gardening and the importance of order.
  • Strega Nona's Gift (2011): Concerns Italian holiday traditions.
  • Strega Nona Does It Again (2013): Strega Nona has the perfect remedy for a houseguest who overstays her welcome.

Other mediaEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Mehegan, David (2007-12-10). "Tomie dePaola knows his audience". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2009-04-07.
  2. ^ Association for Library Service to Children. "Caldecott Medal & Honor Books, 1938-Present". American Library Association. Retrieved 2013-01-12.
  3. ^ Bird, Elizabeth (2012-07-06). "Top 100 Picture Books Poll Results". School Library Journal "A Fuse #8 Production" blog. Archived from the original on December 4, 2012. Retrieved September 7, 2021.
  4. ^ MacPherson, Karen (2009-11-17). "Talking with 'Strega Nona' author Tomie dePaola". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2013-01-12. DePaola says people often tell him that their parents or grandparents told them stories about Strega Nona, as if she were part of Italian folklore. In fact, dePaola invented her and said it was the publisher's idea to call it an 'old tale.'
  5. ^ a b c dePaola, Tomie. "Notes on Strega Nona by Tomie..." Retrieved 2013-01-12.
  6. ^ Strega Nonna at IMDb
  7. ^ "Caldecott Literature Series: Strega Nona". New Hampshire Public Television. Archived from the original on 2013-04-15. Retrieved 2013-01-12.
  8. ^ "Tomie dePaola's Strega Nona The Musical". 2010-10-29. Retrieved 2013-01-12.
  9. ^ Graeber, Laurel (2006-10-13). "Family Fare: A Benevolent Sorcerer and a Bumbling Apprentice". New York Times. Retrieved 2013-01-12.