September 21, 2011, Epoch Times
For harvest time, a celebration of nature’s bounty
A great Fall read for children, Strega Nona’s Harvest celebrates the bounty of the season and the spirit of generosity through the familiar antics of its adorable title character.
Every once in a while a character makes its mark on the world of children’s literature in a way that will clearly endure through generations. Such is the impact that Tomie dePaola’s smiling Italian granny, Strega Nona, has made since first being introduced to readers in 1975.
Strega Nona’s Harvest, published in 2009, harkens back to the character’s original adventures in the Caldecott Honor Award-winning “Strega Nona,” and follows the beloved grandmother and her assistants Bambolona and Big Anthony through the planting season to harvest time. When Big Anthony doesn’t exactly follow Strega Nona’s instructions, he finds himself harvesting more bounty than he bargained for.
As Strega Nona opens her carefully stowed box of seeds, she explains they’ll be ready to plant “when la luna—the moon—tells us … Then we will plant each kind of seed carefully in the right place. … A garden must be orderly …”
Strega Nona goes on to explain, with Italian phrases peppered throughout, every careful consideration that goes into her garden such as never planting the same vegetable in the same spot, raking the soil with compost, and planting the seeds in perfectly straight rows. For her secret ingredient (ingrediente segreto) she blows three kisses to the full moon that glows over her newly planted garden.
Big Anthony sees this, and feeling a bit indignant after being “bossed around” by Bambolona, decides to plant his own garden with some errant seeds he finds; adding the secret ingredient at the end.
At the end of the season, Big Anthony’s garden produces more vegetables than he knows what to do with. Each night he secretly piles his harvest at Strega Nona’s doorstep. Puzzled, Strega Nona goes to the village to find the source of the abundance. She learns there that her garden was the only successful one in the village and swiftly prepares a banquet and shares her good fortune with those in need.
Strega Nona’s Harvest is a delightful story that contains so many heartwarming elements; from respect for the seeds and the process of gardening and nature at large, to the diligent spirit of doing a good job, to the heart of generosity in sharing one’s abundance.
As leaves begin to turn and pumpkins to pop, celebrate the season by sharing Strega Nona’s Harvest with your young reader.