Did you know Strega Nona’s Harvest was inspired by Martha Stewart’s garden?
After completing his new pop-up book, Brava Strega Nona (engineered by Robert Sabuda and Matthew Reinhart), dePaola turned his attention to another project on his drawing table. “It wasn’t really working,” dePaola says of the new book. “I changed editors at that time and the whole team of editors and I weren’t used to working with each other yet and so I was trying to please them by grabbing all these ideas and shoving them into a book I didn’t want to do.” Each time he protested, they offered encouragement and flattery. “If they knew they scared me they’d be horrified!” dePaola quips. He says the process reminded him of Lucretia Hale’s The Peterkin Papers in which Mrs. Peterkin adds salt instead of sugar to her husband’s coffee. The Peterkins ask a number of people how to remove the salt from the coffee and each time Mrs. Peterkin follows their advice, the coffee tastes worse and worse, until finally, a wise lady from Philadelphia suggests throwing out the coffee and pouring a new cup. “So that’s what I suddenly decided to do,” dePaola says, in spite of a looming deadline. Desperate for an idea he found inspiration in an issue of Martha Stewart Living in an aerial view of her garden. “The thing was so anal and so perfect, it freaked me out,” dePaola says. “I got this flash of inspiration. Strega Nona is going to plant a garden and, of course her garden is going to be perfect.” Strega Nona’s garden was doubly appealing because dePaola could incorporate gardening folklore and old wives’ tales. The result, Strega Nona’s Harvest, is like a freshly poured cup of coffee [excerpted from my Tomie dePaola profile].
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