Tomie dePaola's 2011, Strega Nona's Gift, may not be his most magical Strega Nona story despite winning the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award. Perhaps, Big Anthony's antics aren't quite as spontaneous, the consequences of those antics quite as hilarious, or Strega Nona just doesn't really get 'm good this time for disobeying. In any case, it is as beautifully illustrated as any of his other titles and I chose to blog about it this week because it is about more than Big Anthony and magic gone wild.
Strega Nona's Gift unravels over the course of weeks, over the course of many feast days each with their own traditions and special meaning for the community. I like this. I like that DePaola reminds (or informs) readers that this a season of many holidays, many special days, and many traditions. And, this book reminded me that even one holiday tradition--Christmas--looks, smells, and tastes very different from one community or culture to the next.
No matter what special days or traditions our library patrons will be sharing this December and January, we can create inclusive programs and story times about the winter season of generosity and sharing. And to that end, most any Strega Nona title will fit the bill...after all, what storybook character creates greater feasts for more people than our beloved Strega Nona!
Stone Soup is one of my favorite stories for this time of year. Yes, it's about soup (an obvious cold weather tie-in) but it's also about sharing and the fine things that come of being generous with each other.
Jon J. Muth's version of Stone Soup is especially lovely. "Stone Soup" is traditionally a European folktale, but Muth sets his story in China, and his watercolor scenes seem to fade in and out of a drifting mountain fog.
In addition or instead of a winter craft, wrap up your program by inviting children and families to gather around tables where you have put out all of the play dishes and food that you can gather. Young children will eagerly jump into this creative play, and older children and parents will quickly get wrapped up in the task of sorting out dishes and utensils for everyone, "making food," and pretending to enjoy the delicious food that little ones dish up.
Happy Winter Holidays to All!