Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Legend of Old Befana” as Want to Read:
The Legend of Old Befana
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

The Legend of Old Befana (Legends)

4.16 of 5 stars 4.16  ·  rating details  ·  321 ratings  ·  32 reviews
This is a delightful reading of the favorite Italian Christmas story about an eccentric old woman and her never-ending search for the Baby King.
Paperback, 32 pages
Published September 2nd 1980 by HMH Books for Young Readers
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Legend of Old Befana, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Legend of Old Befana

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. SeussA Christmas Carol by Charles DickensThe Night Before Christmas by Clement C. MooreThe Polar Express by Chris Van AllsburgThe Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
Favorite Christmas Books
159th out of 689 books — 942 voters
Strega Nona by Tomie dePaolaBreakaway by Bryan  MurphyThe Thief Lord by Cornelia FunkeLinehan's Trip by Bryan  MurphyMurder By Suicide by Bryan  Murphy
Italy Italy
21st out of 171 books — 44 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 549)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
The sin of acedia conveyed in concepts comprehensible to a preschooler. Impressive.
This is kind of a weird story to like but it's part of my family's tradition growing up, so I rate it 5 stars. The story of Befana is an Italian folk legend about a cranky old woman who loves to clean. One night she's woken by a bright star in the sky. She then meets a group of travelers following the star in search of the newborn baby King. She rejects their offer of traveling with them at first, but then after cleaning and baking, she sets off with her broom and baked goods in search of this b ...more
Skylar Burris
Old Befana, like the Martha of Scripture, is busy with many things, and so she never does quite catch up with the Christ child...thus the legendary origin of the leaving of gifts on the Feast of the Three Kings on Janaury 6th. My daughter and I enjoy these Tomie dePaola children's versions of various cultural legends, and I am glad to have a story about Epiphany to share with her since that was not something we observed in our lower church days, but we do now.
Kym Machovina
The legend of Old Befana is such a special book in our family. It is one of our most cherished Christmas Books. When the three kings come to ask Befana to join them following the star she, in her grumpiness declines because she has too much housework. However, Befana comes around and true to the Italian spirit she gathers food to bring to the Baby Jesus. Unfortunately Befana doesn't find the Baby Jesus but she does find His spirit. Befana ends up leaving her gifts to children who havae the spiri ...more
Always sweeping, always baking, Befana reminded me of the story of Mary and Martha in the New Testament. Sweeping and baking are important, and wonderful gifts for others, but one mustn't lose sight of spending time with loved ones.

"Old Befana never caught up, alas. She never found the Child in Bethlehem. But she is searching still, to this day. Every year on the Feast of the Three Kings, January the sixth, Old Befana runs across the sky. She visits all children while they sleep and leaves them
With Epiphany coming up on January 6, we've already read The Legend of Old Befana by Tomie DePaola several times in our home. In Italian folklore, La Befana is an old woman (in some regions, a friendly "witch") who visits children on the night before Epiphany, leaving candy and/or small gifts. Befana represents all people who are seeking Jesus.

The stories about La Befana vary greatly from region to region, but Tomie DePaola's version comes closest to the one I learned as a child.

La Befana is a p
Love this story.

This woman is unfriendly and not open to others at first. She misses her opportunity but rather than turn and go home bitter she treats each house she happens on to as the house where the baby King could be living.

This book captures my mothers childhood Christmas's. It shows how we can pay it forward even when we have only a little. And anyone who knows a new mother could certainly offer to sweep the floor...
Gordon Pennington
This Italian folklore is about an old woman, who seems bitter. Old Befana is not friendly to passers-by. She is constantly sweeping and doing her household chores, so much so that she misses the child being born (the Baby King). She searches for days and days. Before this day, townspeople would stop by to say hello but Old Befana would sweep them away saying that she had no time for visiting. She learned to value the company of others and began leaving presents for children on her journey to fin ...more
Classic Italian Christmas story to celebrate January 6th. As always, Tomie's illustrations are beautiful and the story is told in a way that you just can't help feeling bad for Old Befana as she's always sweeping.
A lovely Christmas tale that steps out of the commercial Christmas mold. A nice remembrance that sometimes things can't be perfect, but if we are too busied by trying to make them so, we may miss the magic.
Tom Miranda
Great book for kids! It is a great telling of the story i grew up with. I love reading it to my kids and they love hearing it.
Josie Sirna
A must read for my kids at this time of year. Now to fill their winter boots with cookies, Baci and clementines!
Way too creepy for preschool aged kids. May revisit the story in a couple years.
Katherine Moses
The Legend of Old Befana is a myth about an old witch that visits children on Twelfth Night in Italy. Old Befana is the witch in the story. This is the story of why she started to visit children.

As a literacy teacher I would use this story as an add on when we talk about Christmas in Italy. The text can be compared to Christmas myth we hear.

Tomie dePaola is of Italian decent, this is a story he may have heard growing up. He words invite children to use their imagination.

Jeffrey Hite
I was not familiar with this legend before I read this story to the kids a few weeks ago, so I have no idea if this is a good retelling of the myth or not.

With that out of the way, I really enjoyed this story. I really appreciate Christmas stories that are not all sappy, and Santa Claus filled. Better than me enjoying it my children enjoyed it and were able to get the symbolism without it being spoon feed to them.

Jessica N.
This is a good retelling of the classic Italian legend la Befana. She was an old woman who met the three wise men on their journey to find the Christ child. They invite her to come along, but she doesn't go. The story is what she decides to after that decision.
The illustrations are exactly what you expect from a Tomie dePaola book. Very enjoyable read. Kids will love it, adults will learn something new.
Kristina Wojtaszek
I loved this little tale! The cranky old woman of a little Italian village that is made fun of and unloved by those around her learns of the Christ Child but cannot find him. Forever after she leaves gifts and cleans for all children around the world once a year in her search for the Christ Child. The illustrations are simple and sweet and remind me of decorated sugar cookies!
Old Befana has the chance to accompany the Three Wise Men to worship the Christ Child, but she becomes distracted by her neurotic need to sweep the house, the porch, the walk, and she misses the opportunity.

Made me think how I am like Old Befana.
I liked De Paola's presentation of this legend but I admit the story leaves me a bit confused. Old Befana isn't really nice, doesn't like people and I don't know why she would want to roam the earth forever searching for the Christ child.
Read to my children so long ago - Tomie dePaola is a long-time favorite artist; his books bring to life stories and legends to yet another generation.
I remember reading this a long time ago with my daughters; Sklar's review brought it back. Want to reread. dePaola is an all-time favorite!
34 months - not much to say it was typical Tomie de Paola illustrations with an Italian Christmas story.
This is the Italian version of the Russian/Slavic folktale "Baboushka and the Three Kings."
Great book with lots of great symbolism. Great story
with beautiful art.
I love this book. A great story of Christ centered Christmas traditions.
This was a great story to teach my children about an old Italian legend.
Wonderful story and DePaola's lovely, signature watercolor paintings.
Khris Sellin
Another nostalgic gift from Lisa. Sweet story about Three Kings Day.
A sweet story with gorgeous illustrations.
An old Italian Christmas story worth reading.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 18 19 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Donkey's Dream
  • The Trees of the Dancing Goats
  • Brigid's Cloak: An Ancient Irish Story
  • Baboushka and the Three Kings
  • Angelina's Christmas
  • Santa's Favorite Story
  • Amos et Boris
  • St. Patrick's Day in the Morning
  • The Nutcracker
  • Tree of Cranes
  • Room for a Little One: A Christmas Tale
  • A Pirate's Night Before Christmas
  • Great Joy
  • Nine Days to Christmas: A Story of Mexico
  • The Story of Holly and Ivy
  • How Santa Got His Job
  • Christmas in Noisy Village
  • Russell's Christmas Magic
Tomie dePaola (pronounced Tommy da-POW-la) is best known for his books for children.
He's been published for 40 years and has written and/or illustrated over 200 books, including 26 Fairmount Avenue, Strega Nona, and Meet the Barkers.
Tomie dePaola and his work have been recognized with the Caldecott Honor Award, the Newbery Honor Award and the New Hampshire Governor's Arts Award of Living Treasure.
More about Tomie dePaola...

Other Books in the Series

Legends (5 books)
  • The Legend of the Bluebonnet
  • The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush
  • The Legend of the Poinsettia
  • The Legend of the Persian Carpet
Strega Nona The Legend of the Bluebonnet The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush The Art Lesson Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs

Share This Book