Strega Nona Does It Again (Tomie dePoala)

Banned Books Week, Day 2: Hello, friends! We are continuing our Banned Books Week theme today with Strega Nona Does It Again by Tomie dePoala, the latest in the Strega Nona (Italian for “Grandmother Witch”) book series. These books have been challenged and/or banned in multiple locations because of their positive portrayal of magic and witches.

Strega Nona is expecting a visit from her cousin’s daughter, the beautiful Angelina. When Angelina arrives, Strega Nona and her friends find that she is quite a handful: she is self-centered and rude, and turns their lives upside-down by making them wait on her hand and foot! Strega Nona decides to concoct a plan to win the heart of Angelina’s beloved Hugo for her, in order to get her demanding houseguest out of her hair, and weaves a little magic along the way.

I have to say, while I have enjoyed the Strega Nona books in the past, I did not like this one. While the folk-art illustrations are always charming and fun, and I love that there is a smattering of Italian vocabulary words and phrases, I disagreed with this book’s overall message. Angelina is spoiled and impolite, so Strega Nona decides to teach her a lesson by… giving her exactly what she wants? Rewarding her for her egocentric behavior? Also, I’m not wild about the notion of marrying a woman of as punishment. From a practical standpoint, the book was also a bit long for JJ, and she started getting squirmy (though, again, she loved the illustrations). 

I’ve been a fan of the Strega Nona books past, but I just don’t think I can call this one Baby Bookworm approved. However, I would definitely encourage readers to check out the previous Strega Nona stories, which are fun and have much better lessons.

The Family Book (Todd Parr)

Hello friends, and welcome to the beginning of Banned Books Week! For those who may not know, Banned Books Week is a week in which the ALA draws attention to books that have been banned or challenged, and celebrates the freedom to read. In honor of Banned Books Week, JJ and I will be reading a book that has been banned or challenged (yes, they ban children’s books too)! 

Today, we read Todd Parr’s The Family Book, a celebration of families in all their forms, and the things that bring them all together. Each page introduces a different kind of family: ones with step-mothers or -fathers, ones that look the same or different, ones that are big or small, ones with adopted members, etc. And of course, no matter what your family looks like, all families are special because they love each other, and one of them is yours! 

As always, Todd Parr’s books are fantastic for younger readers: the bright, bold color scheme made every page interesting and fun for JJ, the length was perfect for baby bookworms, it’s easy and fun to read aloud, and the message is wonderful. It was just this message that got The Family Book banned by an Illinois school district: the book has a single solitary page that informs children that some families have two mommies or two daddies, and it was banned on the grounds that “those are issues that shouldn’t be taught at the elementary school level.” And while that school district may have disagreed, any book that celebrates the diversity of families, and makes children of non-traditional families feel like they belong, is a great book for all children to read. Baby Bookworm approved!