Tag Archives: classic

Strega Nona by Tomie de Paola

17 Mar

A Caldecott Honor Book

Strega Nona is a classic tale about a “Grandma Witch”  that needs assistance with her house and garden. Strega Nona hires Big Anthony and gives him specific instructions to not touch her magic pot. During Strega Nona’s excursion to see her friend Strega Amelia, Big Anthony decides to make the most of his boss’ departure. Sure enough, Big Anthony goes and repeats the magic words that make the pot bring forth glorious noodles. To his dismay, Big Anthony cannot make the pot stop producing noodles and the noodles fill up the house and overflow out of the house. The noodles continue growing and begin to fill up the town.  Upon Strega Nona’s return, she magically ends the never ending pasta. Big Anthony learns a lesson when Strega Nona graciously offers him a fork to begin cleaning up his noodle mess. The illustrations in this story are captivating and hold the reader’s attention. This story is especially enjoyed by a younger audience (age 4-8), perhaps those students needing more visual reinforcement. Tomie de Paola’s story and illustrations are classic and not to be missed.


Strega Nona is the grandma we all secretly long for. She teaches her moral lessons silently, letting us learn by making mistakes through experience and trials. My favorite aspect of this story are the illustrations. The illustrations call to mind Medieval paintings-with their flat 2dimensional appearance. This story is a classic, delighting both young and old.

Suggested Library Activity:

Begin a multiplication lesson reading this story. Have students put one elbow pasta in to the pot. Retrieve two elbow pasta magically out of the pot. Relate this to multiplication. Write the multiplication sentence on chart paper. Do this again and again doubling the elbow pasta each time. Record on the chart to share whole group. Have students illustrate their own pots and record what comes out of their pots.

Bibliographic Citation:

DePaola, T. (1975). Strega nona: An old tale. Englewood Cliffs, N.J: Prentice-Hall.

Additional Book Review:

“From my old review: “Strega Nona lives by her lonesome in a small cottage in Calabria, Italy. A witch by trade, she cures the townspeople of their ailments, warts, and headaches. When Big Anthony is hired on as Strega Nona’s servant she gives him very strict instructions on what he is required to do, and what is forbidden. Quoth Strega Nona, ‘The one thing you must never do is touch the pasta pot’. You see where this is going. After watching the witch conjure delicious cooked pasta fully formed from the pot, Anthony is eager to show this miracle himself to the people of the town. When Strega Nona leaves on a trip, Anthony speaks her spell and feeds everyone in the vicinity delicious, piping hot pasta. Unfortunately, Anthony didn’t quite catch the trick to making the pasta stop flowing. As the villagers attempt to prevent the growing threat from destroying their town, Strega Nona arrives just in time to put everything right again. Anthony receives a just comeuppance and all is well in the world.”

Apropos of nothing, I always thought that Big Anthony was kinda cute.  This is why I’ve been careful to avoid marrying any picture book characters.  I have terrible taste in their men.

Top 100 Picture Books Poll Results. (2009, April 14th). Strega Nona: an old tale [Review of the book Strega Nona]. School Library Journal Online.


Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst

7 Feb

Every day cannot always be a great day! As adults that statement holds true, but some children may find it challenging in coping with this life lesson. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst captures the essence of a bad day through a child’s eyes. Excerpt from book:

“I went to sleep with gum in my mouth and now there’s gum in my hair…I dropped my sweater in the sink while the water was running and I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.”

This book illustrates with humor and mild sarcasm that having a bad day is not forever and despite nothing ever going right for Alexander he gets through the day. The  pen and ink drawings enhance the story by depicting key events throughout the story and also embody Alexander’s emotions. This story is a welcome addition to any primary library collection.

Book Cover


This story makes me think of my 2.5 year old daughter. My husband and I joke that she can go from the happiest girl in the world to the meanest, stubbornest little thing in milliseconds. Alexander, poor kid is having a bad day. No matter what he does, he just can’t seem to catch a break. This book makes bad days seem almost comical—at least in a book. The illustrations capture the emotions Alexander is feeling and I can almost feel his bad day.

Suggested activity:

Use this book to discuss feelings. People are not always happy, and we need to have outlets to express our sadness, anger and hurt. Have students make a list of ways  to cope with a bad day. How can they make themselves feel better? Is it a good book? A walk outside? Or time spent with Mom, Dad or a special person?

Bibliographic Citation:

Viorst, J. (1972). Alexander and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. New York: Atheneum.

Additional Book Review:

It’s been more than 30 years, and the luck of the put-upon young protagonist in Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day hasn’t changed one bit. Judith Viorst’s ever-popular picture book, originally published in 1972, still holds plenty of appeal for children.

Atheneum has issued a special limited edition of this title, with a new preface for young readers penned by Viorst (aka, “Alexander’s mom”) and illustrator Ray Cruz. In addition to a snazzy dark-red cover, the interior artwork, originally rendered in finely detailed pen and ink, has been digitally colorized to highlight Alexander—and only Alexander—in each illustration, wonderfully emphasizing his frustration and sense of isolation as he encounters one rotten experience after another, from waking up with gum in his hair to lima beans for dinner.

Fleishhacker, J. (2009, October 12). Fresh approaches: Noteworthy new editions and reissues. [ Review of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day]. School Library Journal online. Retrieved from http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/article/CA6701679.html

Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown

27 Jan

Margaret Wise Brown’s The Runaway Bunny tells a story about a little bunny wanting to run away from his mother. The little bunny tells his mother he is going to runaway and his mother simply responds that she will catch him. The little bunny replies, “If you run after me, I will become a fish in a trout stream.” His mother then replies she will, “become a fisherman and catch him.” With imaginative and clever dialogue this story teaches a lesson that no matter how hard the little bunny may try to runaway, a mother’s love cannot keep her away from her child. It is an endearing story with imaginative writing and quiet illustrations. A solid and standard addition to any elementary school library collection.

Insight:  I love this story for its playfulness and brightly colored illustrations. My daughter loves how the words flow like musical notes. This is a great story to read to little ones before bedtime.

Suggested Library Activity: 

This story would be especially fun used in a story time for younger readers ages 2-6. Using an extra large box acquired from a store create a puppet house. Get creative and create the mommy bunny and baby bunny, including any props and backgrounds that assist in the telling of the story. If you want to get really fancy, have a friend that plays guitar come and add music to the show. The sillier the better and the more you get into the show, the more the audience will enjoy the show. After all, isn’t that the whole point of a puppet show?

Book cover

Bibliographic Citation:

Brown, M. (1942). The runaway bunny. New York: HarperCollins.

Additional Review:

Runaway Bunny constitutes yet another divisive children’s title.  Many people (most?) would say that it’s a sweet and comforting tale of a parent’s unconditional and eternal love for their child.  But there is a segment of the population that finds the book disturbing.  Some feel that the bunny is honestly trying to make a break for freedom, but that its mother is preventing this escape, and crushing its spirit.  The book can be read a number of different ways, but generally it’s still a very well regarded picture book title.

Said Bethany Miller Cole of Children’s Literature about the book, “Clement Hurd’s black and white and colorful, dream-like illustrations grace spreads throughout the book, bringing to life perfectly the imagination of the young and the depth of love a parent has for a child. Children and the adults who love them will treasure this story.”

Top 100 Picture Books Poll Results (2009, April 7). Review of The Runaway Bunny. Retrieved from