Strega Nona’s Harvest

Strega Nona’s Harvest by Tomie dePaola

Rejoice!  A new Strega Nona book is here!

Every spring, Strega Nona plants her garden with seeds saved from the year before.  She carefully keeps records of where things were planted previous years and never plants them in the same place.  The garden is planted during a full moon, and is done perfectly with straight rows.  Big Anthony chafes under these rules and Bambolona’s bossiness, but he does his best.  Watching Strega Nona, he learns what her little bit of magic is to make the plants grow strong.  Then he finds some forgotten seeds and decides to prove to everyone that he can do just as well himself.  Needless to say, things grow out of hand and Big Anthony has to find a way to get himself out of the situation with funny results.

DePaola’s format is classic Strega Nona with his great lines, bright colors,and signature style.  The book has both large illustrations and smaller ones with white space between them, lending them a comic strip style that  is recognizably dePaola.  His writing is clever, simple and great fun.  The Italian that is thrown in makes it a joy to read aloud as do the various character voices. 

An feast of autumnal fun featuring Strega Nona can only be delicious.  Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from copy received from publisher.

Swamps of Sleethe

The Swamps of Sleethe by Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by Jimmy Pickering.

Climb into your spaceship and travel from one strange world to another, each with some strange twist and surprise.  It’s a trip that only Prelutsky could take you on with his signature mix of poetic humor and chills.  Each world is captured with a single poem that is paired with illustrations by Pickering which are equally funny and dark.  Part of the fun of the book is unscrambling the planets names into words that describe them.  Pure word fun from beginning to end!

Prelutsky takes readers from icy planets to dangerous forests.  You will visit planets with water you should not drink and planets with air you should not breathe.  Danger lurks around every corner, usually in surprising places with even more astonishing results.  This book is dark, showing one way after another to die on distant planets.  Middle-school and early elementary children will embrace it.  It’s not for preschoolers.

If you are asked to read for a 4th or 5th grade class, this book would be a perfect read aloud.  You will get gasps and giggles often at the same time.  Appropriate for ages 8-12.

Reviewed from copy received from publisher.

Also reviewed by A Patchwork of Books.