In a third episode set in the (supposedly) witch-ridden Italian town, curious Maria Beppina makes a startling discovery when she stops running from the scary “Clopper.”
Interwoven with events from previous tales, Maria Beppina’s act of courage comes after her cousin Primo hands her the gold ring he has found in a fish. What she subsequently turns to face is not a fearsome monster but a friendly if eccentric old lady who wears one wooden clog and lives with a trio of odd companions. Being something of an outsider, as she and her widowed father have moved to the village from Naples, the usually resolutely honest white girl later concocts for the other children a terrifying yarn featuring a cackling witch and a cooking pot. Her guilt is sharp but short-lived, and by the end she’s going back to revisit her new friend(s). Though as usual Marciano appends a “Witchonary” and a history of the real town, he’s been cagey throughout about whether there are actual witches and demons at work—until now, at least (though he could still be having us on). Blackall supplies a map and festoons the compact-format tale with lively scenes of apple-cheeked children in dress that evokes the 1820s small-town setting.
The tongue-in-cheek tale goes on, with enticing hints of adventures and revelations to come. (Fantasy. 8-10)