Six-year-old Claudia gets the fun of squishing the grapes to make the wine and overcomes a childhood fear as well.
In a voice that sounds rather older than her years, Claudia recounts her excitement at finally being old enough to crush grapes with her many relatives. A huge barrel is placed on the roof of a cantina (a small stone outbuilding), the grapes are put into the barrel and the family dances and sings, smashing the grapes with their feet. To help her overcome her fear of heights, Claudia’s grandmother and aunt first coax her to climb alone into Nonna’s high iron bed, then to reach, via a kitchen chair, to a high shelf where the cheese she loves is kept. Her mama climbs up the ladder behind Claudia, her brother pulls her up and there she is, singing and dancing with the rest of the family. In an author's note, Buonanno reveals that she grew up in Tuscany and, like Claudia, was afraid of high places. She laments the appearance of grape-crushing machines that appeared in the 1950s, taking away the fun. Capaldi’s pen, ink and watercolor illustrations are disappointingly bland: The grapes look more like a sea of lavender, and the children are cheerful but indistinguishable, except for differences in hair color.
A little too much like an adult family story with a moral to have real child appeal. (glossary) (Picture book. 5-8)