This is the beloved Strega Nona's own story, every detail just as she remembers it, from her childhood with Grandma Concetta, who trained young Nona and her best friend Amelia, to her early days in the little house on the hill and the happy moments when she met Big Anthony and Bambolona. It is the story of a most fascinating life that has influenced and delighted countless children and adults all over the world, and it all starts with the night Strega Nona was born, when the wind was blowing dark storm clouds across the hills . . .
It's no surprise that award-winning author and artist Tomie dePaola was Strega Nona's choice as her biographer and portraitist, for he has put into books many stories that she has shared with him over the years, including Strega Nona (a Caldecott Honor Book), Strega Nona Meets Her Match, Strega Nona Takes a Vacation, Strega Nona's Harvest, Strega Nona's Gift, and Strega Nona Does It Again. Strega Nona's reaction when shown this book was, "Bravissimo, mio caro Tomie!"
DePaola executes a clever concept with his trademark charm and humor, offering a prequel to the series that began in 1976 with the Caldecott Honor book Strega Nona. Here the author/artist tells how his charismatic character came to become a strega (witch) with a "magic touch." The "biography" begins on a dark and stormy night in the hills of Calabria, where Grandma Concetta authoritatively oversees Nona's birth. Convinced that Nona will be a strega like her, the big-hearted woman teaches her granddaughter how to use herbs and spells to remedy villagers' aches and troubles. Nona, along with her overconfident friend Amelia (who sets herself up as Nona's rival in some of the other books), attends the Academy for Stregas, but soon concludes that its newfangled approach to magic is not for her, and returns home to practice her craft the old-fashioned way. Eventually she discovers Grandma Concetta's all-important secret ingredient: love. With their expressive faces and pertly exaggerated profiles (Strega Nona's signature hooked nose punctuates her face even as a newborn), the classic characters happily cavort in sunnily colored, droll illustrations. And dePaola does a splendid job of working this sparkling tale into the Strega Nona canon: on the final page, for example, the aging strega opens her door to the first respondent to her ad for a helper, whom fans will immediately recognize as the gangly and beloved Big Anthony. Ages 4-8.