Isaiah 6:8

8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Littlest Angel

Christmas time has more often than not been an emotional struggle for me.  I lost my brother on January 5th, 1963.  He was almost 6 years old.  One of my most powerful memories of just before that tragic day takes place prior to Christmas.  My brother was given a book called, The Littlest Angel by Charles Tazewell.  Since Christmas was fast approaching my mom would read it to us every night before bed....I loved the story and the little angel looked just like my brother.  When my brother died....all his toys and stuff disappeared...never to be seen again....until we started cleaning out my mom's house.  I found numerous remnants of my history in the house and still am....but what I didn't find was The Littlest I went searching for it.  I ravaged used book stores, Amazon, everywhere...until one day I tried ebay....and there it was.  I bid, won, and watched the mail daily until it was in my hot little hands.  If you have a chance over the this book.  Go to your local public library....sit at a table...and read it.  It is an amazing story.  Let me tell you about this book.....The Littlest Angel by Charles Tazewell has been in publication continuously for over 63 years, making it one of the most well-known Christmas stories ever published. It was first published in 1946(my copy is a 1960 one with the little angel doing a nose dive on the cover) and illustrated by Katherine Evans. The Littlest Angel has been illustrated by many other artists, giving the book a slightly different and updated look as the years have passed, but the story has survived over 60 years of re-issues, with a popularity that has stood the test of time. Tazewell, though not very well known was born in Iowa in 1900 and died in Vermont in 1972, and worked with the producers of a radio version of the story that featured Loretta Young, and a television version of his story that was produced by Hallmark. Frank calls these movies...Cheesy Christmas movies...and he may be right....but I know they are feel good movies for me during the holidays. 
Let me give you a brief summary of The Littlest Angel see The Littlest Angel is a story of the youngest angel in heaven--a little boy who doesn't know how to act angelic. In fact, he acts just like the little boy he was on earth. But in Tazewell's perfectly ordered heaven, the littlest angel struggles to find his place. His heart yearns for earth, where his boyish treasures lie. The littlest angel is messy, clumsy, always late, and he sings terribly off key. The other perfect angels in heaven don't quite know what to do with him. "However, owing to the regrettable fact that he always forgot to move his wings, the Littlest Angel always fell head over halo!"  Finally the littlest angel is sent to be "disciplined" by the Understanding Angel. The Littlest Angel sits on the lap of the Understanding Angel, and unburdens his troubled little heart, revealing just how homesick he is for earth. The Understanding Angel agrees to retrieve the boy's box of earthly treasures, which contains things that only a little boy could love...I don't want to give the ending get up and go get to finding it....what are you doing still sitting there...this is a must read for the season!  The really cool thing is that Charles Tazewell wrote the Littlest Angel in an era that pre-dated television, fast food, and video games. It was the era of radio, and Tazewell's sumptuous use of descriptive words and his smooth storytelling style make this an easy read-aloud me.  You can mesmerize children with this one....and a sweet voice. Tazewell was 46 years old at the time the book was first published, and the second World War was coming to an end. It isn't all that surprising that a story like The Littlest Angel emerged at the end of the second world war. The world was grieving for the souls of its lost sons and daughters. This story lays bare the collective grief of an era, and indirectly pays tribute to the many lives that were taken before their time.  The Little Angel was about my was about anybody's brother, son, child....taken at a young age. 
The Littlest Angel has sold over 1 million copies during the last 60 plus years. During this time, the author has passed away, and the story has been republished using a number of different illustrators. Most of the versions of the story have stayed true to the original text of the story.  Because so many versions of the book are in print, you can buy an earlier version illustrated by Katherine Evans for almost the same price as a newly illustrated version of the story.  The rarest version of the Littlest Angel is the Silver Star edition published by Grosset and Dunlap. I don't have this one...and to be honest have never seen is really hard to find.  The 1946 Grossett and Dunlap published the first edition of The Littlest Angel by Charles Tazewell and it is illustrated by Katherine Evans.   The Silver Star, or the 1947 version was published through Grossett and Dunlap. I don't even know what makes it so special.  I just know it is.  My version of the book is the 1960 one.  The Littlest Angel was republished with a new cover, by Wonder Books with illustrations by Katherine Evans. This cover is green and depicts the littlest angel falling head over halo from a cloud.  This is the nose dive edition.  1962 Grossett and Dunlap published a new version of The Littlest Angel with illustrations by Sergio Leone. This version of the book depicts the littlest angel as a little blond boy wearing blue "footie" pajamas.  It is cute....but my littlest angel brother....was not blonde...he had brown hair.  In 1969 The Littlest Angel was produced into a movie starring Johnny Whitaker(who reminds me of my brother). In this version of the story, the littlest angel is named Michael and is an 8-year old shepherd. This movie version became a Hallmark Hall of Fame DVD selection.  In 1972 Tazewell died....but in 1982 Ideals Publications published a keepsake edition of The Littlest Angel with illustrations by Rick Reinert.  There was a Leaflet Missal, a publisher and distributor of Catholic children's books and tracts who published a version illustrated by Rebecca Thornburgh. In 1990s Ideals Publishers reprinted the book illustrated by Sergio Leone in a large format version. In 2004 Guy Porfirio illustrated a new version of the book with the original text through Ideals Publications. This book rivals the other children's art books marketed for Christmas sales, that had  high-quality realistic pictures, and gave the book a modern look. The illustrations depicted the littlest angel with a touch of mischief.  As late as 2007 Paul Micich created another set of illustrations for this well-loved book. The pictures in this version had a more brooding quality and use rich, dark colors, with less emphasis on realism. Whichever copy you it to yourself, then read it to your kids and grandkids....if  you don't have it to the neighbors kids....or nieces and nephews.  This book will touch your heart forever.  I guarantee!  Happy Monday.


Mimi said...

Oh I love that book, haven't thought about it in years, thanks for reminding me.

Hugs & love,

Sweet Tea said...

What a lovely post.
Yes, Ma'am I can tell you are a teacher. Beautiful words.
I hope this Christmas is one of joy and celebration for you.
Wonderful post, Karen.

Mid-Atlantic Martha said...

This looks like a great one to have for the grands (me too!)

Tina said...

A great Christmas story. I remember watching the TV movie...the Littlest Angel was the boy that played in "Family Affair" (Jonathan something).

PS: The Knoxville restaurant was called Oysters on the Half Shell or just Half Shell. I don't think it's open anymore. It was on Kingston Pike.

Jerralea said...

I do remember this story, but I have forgotten what was in the box! I'll have to get a copy of this for my grands to - be!

Pam said...

I loved that movie in the 60's. I have always wanted to see it again! Thanks Karen for writing about it. Thanks for the memories :)
Merry Christmas!

Jane said...

Thanks for your summary on The Littlest Angel. That was one of my favorite childhood books (the one with the Littlest Angel doing a nose dive.) My book club on Dec. 6, 2013 is going to share a favorite Christmas book and I have chosen this one even though I no longer have the book. (I'm in my early 70's with many moves through the years.) Have a very special Christmas. Sincerely, Jane Beauclair from North Dakota