Book Review: The Generosity of Strangers

Thomas Antonaccio heard stories all his life about his mother’s childhood experiences in the village of Fornelli in central Italy. A few weeks ago, he published “The Generosity of Strangers: When War came to Fornelli” which retells many of those stories in the first person, through the voice of Lucia, the little girl who lived them.

Lucia is introduced as a young child with a fascination for the simple life in her rural village. She loved catching butterflies, and loved to hear her father play the concertina and sing. When World War II breaks out, taking many people away from the village and bringing others in, life changes dramatically. Lucia’s story let’s us see the historical events from a new perspective.

The storytelling is simple and suits the character of Lucia. The book is described as a children’s non-fiction history book. It would be a good way to introduce children to significant events of 20th century history in Italy. It is a fairly quick read, available on Amazon for Kindle.

Book Review: Strega Nona’s Gift

The most recent in Tomie dePaola’s long series of Strega Nona books, Strega Nona’s Gift (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2011) describes the many festivals connected to Christmas celebration in Italy. In her Calabrian village, Strega Nona cooks her way through the season, cheering up the townspeople when they need it with her own happy magic. Big Anthony wants to help, but can’t seem to stay out of trouble. By the end of the celebration, though, he sets thing right.

This beautiful picture book is a great way to share Italian Christmas traditions with young children. The colorful and varied illustrations are in classic dePaola style, as charming to adults as to children.

Tomie dePaola has written and/or illustrated nearly 250 books during a career of more than 40 years. He is likely the best known Italian-American writer for children, and in 2011 was honored with the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award for his contribution to children’s literature. Strega Nona: An Old Tale Retold, published in 1975, won the Caldecott Award in 1976, and several other Strega Nona books round out the story of the old lady who uses her magic to take away warts, give people good dreams, and many other kindnesses.

So early bird Christmas shoppers, this is your heads-up. If you know young children you want to share Italian traditions with, this book may be the perfect opportunity.