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Strega Nona: Book & CD Paperback – October 4, 2011
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Eric Carle is the creator, author, and illustrator of The Very Hungry Caterpillar and many other children’s books. Tomie dePaola is the author and illustrator of Strega Nona: Her Story and countless other books. They recently had a conversation about their careers as picture book authors.
Tomie dePaola: When I was only four years old, I announced to my family in particular and to the world in general that I was going to become an artist, and write stories and draw pictures for books. I never swayed from that early declaration. I’ve always been curious to know, what inspired you to become a creator and illustrator of picture books?
Eric Carle: My career began as a graphic designer and for a number of years I worked as an art director for an advertising agency in New York. In the mid 1960's Bill Martin, Jr. saw an ad of a red lobster that I had designed and asked me to illustrate his Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? Well, I was set on fire! I was so inspired by this book, and the opportunity to illustrate it changed my life. After that, I started to create my own books, both words and pictures, and really it was then that I had found my true course in life.
Now, I have a question for you, Tomie. How would you describe your artistic style, and has it changed over time?
Tomie dePaola: My illustration style is heavily influenced by folk art--strong simple shapes, bold lines, color, color, color and a deceptive simplicity. My style began to develop early in art school, and through the years, it hasn’t changed very much, but it has refined itself. How would you describe yours?
Eric Carle: My aim with my work is to simplify and refine, be logical and harmonious. I like to use simple shapes, bright colors and a lot of white space. I write for the child inside of me. That is always where I begin.
Tomie dePaola: I do, as well. The only audience I keep in mind is that four-year-old in me. People sometimes ask me what advice I would give to young artists. I always think of the wonderful advice I received from my twin cousins when they were in art school in the late '30s. They told me, “Practice, practice, practice and don’t copy.”
Eric Carle: I often tell people about the four magic letters: DO IT. I want to be encouraging but I can only offer the example of my own experience, which is just one approach. There are many wonderful artists to learn about, which is important. But you must use your own imagination. You have to just do it.
Tomie dePaola: How do you feel knowing that a copy of The Very Hungry Caterpillar is sold every 30 seconds, somewhere in the world?
Eric Carle: It is hard for me, maybe for others too, to grasp this concept. But I am truly honored that my story is enjoyed by so many and that it is now being shared by a generation of parents who grew up with my book. How about your Strega Nona. She is one of your most popular characters. Can you share how she came to be?
Tomie dePaola: In the ‘70s when I was teaching at a college, we were required to attend faculty meetings. I always sat in the back with a yellow legal pad. Everyone thought I was taking notes. At one meeting a doodle appeared of a little lady with a big nose and a big chin. I named her Strega Nona, and the rest is history. Speaking of history, how will you be celebrating the third annual Very Hungry Caterpillar Day this year?
Eric Carle: On The Very Hungry Caterpillar Day, March 20th, I will probably be at home with my wife, Bobbie (I am a bit of a hermit, actually). But I will be saying a little toast to the caterpillar for whom I have a special place in my heart. And speaking of holidays, isn’t your favorite holiday Christmas. Do you have a special Christmas memory?
Tomie dePaola: Christmas is my favorite holiday. My favorite Christmas was the one when I received tons and tons of art supplies: everything from an easel to paints, pads and pads of paper, and “how to draw” books.
More About the Author
It drove him through the years of teaching, designing greeting cards and stage sets, and painting church murals until 1965, when he illustrated his first children's book, Sound, by Lisa Miller for Coward-McCann. Eventually, freed of other obligations, he plunged full time into both writing and illustrating children's books.
He names Fra Angelico and Giotto, Georges Rouault, and Ben Shahn as major influences on his work, but he soon found his own unique style. His particular way with color, line, detail, and design have earned him many of the most prestigious awards in his field, among them a Caldecott Honor Award for Strega Nona, the Smithsonian Medal from the Smithsonian Institution, the Kerlan Award from the University of Minnesota for his ""singular attainment in children's literature,"" the Catholic Library Association's Regina Medal for his ""continued distinguished contribution,"" and the University of Southern Mississippi Medallion. He was also the 1990 United States nominee for the Hans Christian Andersen Medal for illustration.
Tomie dePaola has published almost 200 children's books in fifteen different countries. He remains one of the most popular creators of books for children, receiving more than 100,000 fan letters each year.
Tomie lives in an interesting house in New Hampshire with his four dogs. His studio is in a large renovated 200-year-old barn.
- He has been published for over 30 years.
- Over 5 million copies of his books have sold worldwide.
- His books have been published in over 15 different countries.
- He receives nearly 100,000 fan letters each year.
Tomie dePaola has received virtually every significant recognition for his books in the children's book world, including:
- Caldecott Honor Award from American Library Association
- Newbery Honor Award from American Library Association
- Smithson Medal from Smithsonian Institution
- USA nominee in illustration for Hans Christian Andersen Medal
- Regina Medal from Catholic Library Association
Top Customer Reviews
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 he is forbidden to do. Quoth Strega Nona, "The one thing you must never do is touch the pasta pot". You can probably guess where this is headed. After seeing the witch conjur delicious cooked pasta fully formed from the pot, Anthony is eager to prove this miracle 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 way to make the pasta stop flowing. As the villagers attempt to prevent the growing pasta 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.
I can't pinpoint what exactly it is about this book that touches me so deeply. Maybe it's the imagery in the illustrations. Strega Nona has a prominent recognizable nose and a babuska's kerchief about her head. She is constantly surrounded by large rabbits and peacocks, setting the tone of the life she leads.Read more ›
To help other parents apply this advice, as a parent of four I consulted an expert, our youngest child, and asked her to share with me her favorite books that were read to her as a young child. Strega Nona was one of her picks.
This is an engaging tale of an elderly woman everyone called Grandma Witch, or Strega Nona. She helped everyone with their troubles, even the priest and the sisters in the convent. She could cure headaches, help girls get husbands, and get rid of warts.
Because she was old, she hired Big Anthony to help her with the indoor and outdoor chores. Big Anthony was told not to touch the pasta pot, and he agreed. But one day he saw that she could turn it into a magic pasta pot by singing to it. Unfortunately, Big Anthony did not see all of the magic spell she used.
One day when Strega Nona went to visit her friend Strega Amelia, Big Anthony saw his chance!
Using the magic pasta pot by invoking the magic words, soon Big Anthony has enough pasta for everyone in town. People are very impressed and eat with him. Then he says the magic words to make it stop, and it continues (because he hadn't seen Strega Nona blow three kisses as part of the spell). Soon the pasta is coming out the door and threatens the town!
Fortunately, Strega Nona returns and saves the day. But she wants to sleep in her bed that night.Read more ›
I grew up with Strega Nona's tale and love the simplicity and straightforwardness of the tale, I think what keeps it relevant and still readable after all this time is that it's got an old world feel to it (the artwork, while somewhat flat, the muted colors give it a feel of age and old world charm). The story itself while a moral tale about what happens when you don't do as you're told, is told with humor and pasta...who doesn't love pasta (well, maybe not Big Anthony after Strega Nona is done with him...he, he)!
This is a classic that keeps on going with good reason! I give it an A+, even after all these years!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This was on of my favorite books growing up, and it's still so cute and funny. My kids love when I read it with an 'Italian accent'. Great lesson and fun topic!Published 2 days ago by NOB Hill
My child brought this home from the school library, and I can't imagine for the life of me why it's rated as high as it is on Amazon! Read morePublished 10 days ago by Anne Westbrook
This is a lovely book for children. My kids especially like the cd. After listening to the story, we talk about the consequences of the decisions we make.Published 22 days ago by an_tara
Hands down, a must have for your child. My 5yo read this at school with her class last year and when she received it this year for the holidays, she was reciting parts of the book... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Cori F.
Many similar tales and better. The story is okay but this looks like evey other book by the author and Big Anthony is always the same.Published 1 month ago by Persop
This wasn't the book that I thought it was. Although, my son and I still really enjoyed it.Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer