The Legend of Old Befana – Tomie dePaola

The Legend of Old Befana – Tomie dePaola, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, (9781481477635), c1980, 2017

Format: Hardcover

Rating: 1- 5 (5 is excellent or a Starred review) 5

Genre:  Picture Book

What did you like about the book?  This is a reissue DePaola’s version of the Italian legend of Old Befana.  Old Befana is a curmudgeon who lives alone in her little village in Italy. Every day she follows her routine of sweeping: “She swept her little house. She swept her front step. And she even swept her walk, all the way down to the road.”  The village children smell wonderful baking aromas from her home, but she never welcomes visitors. One night, Old Befana is grumpily awoken by a brilliant star shining in the night sky.  The following morning she finds a “glorious” procession of camels, horses, elephants and people, including the Three Wise Men.  A young boy invites her to join them as they search for the “Child King.” Old Befana refuses, of course, but later changes her mind.  She bakes all day and fills a basket with treats as a gift for the Child King and brings along her broom, “…to sweep the room clean, for the baby King’s mother will be tired.”  Unfortunately, Old Befana does not make it to the nativity, but something else happens on this “night of miracles.”  To this day, on the feast day of the Three Kings (January 6), Old Befana visits children as they sleep, leaving them treats and sweeping their rooms clean.  ‘”For after all,’ says Old Befana, ‘I never know which child could be the baby King of Bethlehem.’”  DePaola’s trademark illustrations of colored ink and watercolors on handmade watercolor paper evoke the Italian countryside and the timelessness of the legend.   

Anything you didn’t like about it?  No

To whom would you recommend this book? Fans of Tomie DePaola will love this picture book.  Hand it to readers interested in folktales, especially those of Italy and Christmastime.  

Who should buy this book?  Public Libraries and elementary school libraries

Where would you shelve it? Picture Books

Should we (librarians/readers) put this at the top of our “to read” piles?  Yes

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City:  Catherine Coyne, Mansfield Public Library, Mansfield, MA

Date of review: 12/8/17             


This entry was posted in *Starred Review, Book Review, Christmas and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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