Sunday, November 21, 2010

Little Star

I recently received the new children's Christmas story Little Star by Anthony DeStefano. A certain small girl in our family loves it and it has become daily reading fare. I hope her enthusiasm for the tale continues through Advent, as it distills not only the joyful message of the birth of Christ but the mystery of the soul in love with God. It is not only an excellent preparation for the Nativity of the Lord but implants in a child's heart what it means to belong to the Savior.

According to the press release:
Best-selling author Anthony DeStefano wrote his best book at age 15, as a student in a creative writing class taught by Pulitzer Prize winner Frank McCourt.

“I peaked at 15,” said DeStefano, whose new children’s book, Little Star, has finally been published almost 30 years later, and just in time for Christmas. “I honestly think this is the best thing I’ve ever done.”

Not everyone would agree with the self-effacing writer. DeStefano is the author of the adult best-sellers A Travel Guide to Heaven, and Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To. This Little Prayer of Mine, a children’s book, was published earlier this year.

But Little Star was his first book, written as an assignment for Angela’s Ashes author McCourt when DeStefano was a student at Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan.

“Frank McCourt was a very unorthodox teacher,” said DeStefano. “He knew that the best way to get young writers to write simply was to make them write children’s books. And we had to send them out to publishers.”

Little Star is a beautifully illustrated retelling of the Nativity story and a star, until then all but unnoticed in the night sky, who burns himself out to keep the newborn baby Jesus warm in a Bethlehem stable.

DeStefano’s book was initially turned down by publishers, but many of them tempered their rejections with letters of encouragement. In 1981, famed actress Helen Hayes did a public reading of the book during an Easter Seals event in Manhattan.

DeStefano still has the original manuscript in his office in New York City. The new version, illustrated by Mark Elliott, the artist who worked with DeStefano on This Little Prayer of Mine, was just published by WaterBrook Press in anticipation of the Christmas season. The author hopes audiences of all ages will respond to the story of sacrificial love and its message that everyone—even the tiniest and poorest and least significant among us—matters.

“My goal was to try to encapsulate the whole gospel message in a simple Christmas story,” said DeStefano.

And his grade in that long-ago creative writing class?

Frank McCourt gave him an A.
(*Little Star was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.)



Theresa Bruno said...

Sounds like a wonderful book! It's a wonderful Christmas gift idea for my son, nieces and nephews. Wonderful review!

elena maria vidal said...

Thank you, Theresa, it makes for a wonderful gift!

Julygirl said...

We need more books such as that...Rudolph and Frosty are fun but should not overshadow the Royal Birth.

tubbs said...

Thank you for putting me on to this book. I have an early 19th century row-house, and I set up a display of children's Christmas books in my front windows for Holiday decoration. The neighborhood kids (and parents) absolutely love it, and so do most passers-by. I must now see if Ii can get a copy when I get home for the Hol(y)days.

Julygirl said...

Tubbs, what a softie you are. I would not have guessed!