Anthony DeStefano has written a series of books focused on life after ours here on earth. Among them is Little Star, a children’s book that compellingly tells the Christmas story. He talks about it, and about another recent book, The Invisible World: Understanding Angels, Demons, and the Spiritual Realities That Surround Us, with National Review Online’s Kathryn Jean Lopez.
KATHYRN JEAN LOPEZ: What’s so special about the Christmas star? Why not just go directly to a children’s Bible?
ANTHONY DESTEFANO: There’s nothing particularly special about the Christmas star, per se. But he is child-friendly! And that’s the point. Animals, cartoon characters, talking trees, rocks, sponges, and furry creatures of all sorts — those are all very adorable and very approachable. Kids respond well to them. They’re not part of the more intimidating and often frightening world of adults. So when it comes to educating and entertaining children, characters of this kind are often very helpful. That’s just common sense. The problem is that sacred Scripture doesn’t exactly have a lot of talking animals! Also, we don’t have the liberty of changing Scripture at all, even for the sake of making a particular biblical story or passage or concept more child-friendly. That’s why — although children’s Bibles are very necessary and excellent to use — there’s no reason we can’t also have stories like The Little Drummer Boy, or A Charlie Brown Christmas, or for that matter Little Star. Those stories each have at their core the Gospel message, but they build around that message in a way that is not offensive or theologically inaccurate. I guess you could have started A Charlie Brown Christmas with the famous final scene — with Linus quoting the nativity passage from the Gospel of Luke — and you could have ended it right there. But would that have been as effective? I don’t think so. The reason that story is such a classic is that it introduces children to the biblical message of Christmas by showing children how that message is lived out — in this case, by Charlie Brown, who tries to love and care for the smallest and weakest Christmas tree he can find. The point I’m making is that it’s perfectly okay to invent ancillary inanimate characters, like a star or perhaps a talking animal, and use them in children’s spiritual books, as long as you don’t in any way alter the actual biblical story or change the Gospel message that is being taught. If you are able to walk that line, then you can actually produce something that teaches children about God and Jesus and the Bible, in a way that they really understand and really remember, and, most important, in a way that really prepares them for a lifetime of reading and interiorizing the Gospel. That was my goal in writing Little Star.
LOPEZ: Who is Little Star? And what made him so smart?
DESTEFANO: Little Star is the smallest star in the heavens — ignored by all the other stars and planets. On the night Christ is born, Little Star sees the child being born in a stable and feels sorry for Him. Somehow he has an insight that the child is a king who has a special message to bring to the world — the message of love. I don’t think that Little Star is supposed to be particularly smart. I didn’t conceive him that way. I imagined him only to be the smallest and the weakest star in the galaxy. He’s not supposed to be very smart or even “special” in any conventional way. What he has is a special insight — undoubtedly given to him by God — which the other stars don’t have. And isn’t this exactly what Christianity teaches — that God resists the proud but gives wisdom to the humble? The point is that because Little Star is not arrogant, because he feels genuine concern and pity for the babe in the manger, he is given a special knowledge and light and grace that the other stars don’t possess.