cover image Merry Christmas, Strega Nona

Merry Christmas, Strega Nona

Tomie dePaola. Harcourt Children's Books, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-15-253183-6

Strega Nona is busily preparing for her annual feast for the whole town of Calabria, a place readers will remember from the Caldecott Honor-winning Strega Nona. Because ""Christmas has a magic of its own,'' Strega Nona and her bumbling assistant Big Anthony have to do everything the hard waythis is the one time each year that ``Grandma Witch'' abandons her potions and spells. On the day before Christmas, Strega Nona sends Big Anthony to town with a shopping list, which he promptly forgets. For the first time ever, there will be no time for her to prepare anything; Strega Nona will be alone on Christmas. But it's not to bethe townspeople bring their own feast, thanks to Big Anthony's plans. DePaola shows a master's touch for twisting readers' emotions, first when Strega Nona waits futilely for Big Anthony to arrive with supplies, then when she trudges up the hill toward her darkened, lonely looking home. The joyful ending and sparkling illustrations make this one of the most warmhearted selections of the season. (4-8)