While rereading books that I plan to sell I temporarily list them on Amazon. Eventually those that don’t sell on Amazon are taken to a bookstore. Recently I have been selling to Labyrinth Books in Princeton. Today my first children’s book listed on Amazon sold, “Angelo” by David Macaulay ($10). Many children’s books in my collection, “Angelo” included, would be described as multi-cultural. “The Secret Seder” I wrote about also fits this catagory. Literature can introduce us and our children to different cultures, religions, and traditions.
“Angelo” is set in Italy, probably Rome. I may have bought it due to the Italian connection or because I love Macaulay’s illustrations. I have a nephew Angelo, named after his grandfather and a distant relative, Angelo Rago, a carpenter. Angelo Rago was a craftsman, proud of his work, as is the Angelo in the story. Angie Rago as he was known built a watchermakers bench for my father. A piece of family history. I was pleased that my nephew Vincent preserved it when my father died.
Our fictional Angelo is a older stonemason/plasterer working on refurbishing the stucco and sculpture in a church. He discovers a wounded pigeon and despite his dislike for the birds that ruin his work, takes the bird home. Angelo lives alone and he soon becomes attached to the pigeon that he names Sylvia. They work together, spend time in the countryside and he introduces her to his music. But Sylvia decides to fly away only to return to his side, cooing encouragement, when she sees him slowing down. For years Sylvia will be at Angelo’s side as he works, always slower, to finish the repairs to the church.
Over a bowl of linguini one evening, Angelo tells Sylvia, “Plasterers don’t live forever you know.” He worries for her safety when he is gone. Where will she live? Angelo is inspired, grabs his coat and a flashlight. When he returns in the morning, he dies and is found in bed by other workers, amid sticks and feathers. But high up in the church, he has constructed a stucco nest overlooking the city — a permanate and safe home for Sylvia.
“Angelo” is about growing old, friendship, even with someone we may not initially like, and of course death. It is about craftsmanship, hard work and pride in work. For me there is no question that it is an Italian story. I have seen “Angelos” in Italy in my grandfather’s hometown. I have seen them in Bristol with its Italian immigrant population. Macaulay’s illustrations are fantastic, filled with detail, architecture, and humor. Angelo with his large gray mustache, strong hands, old hat and painter’s smock is classic.
Most of Macaulay’s books are about architecture and how things are constructed — “Pyramid,” “City,” “Castle,” “Cathrdral,” and “Underground.” All are extremely detailed as in his “The Way ThingsWork.”
I was sad when Angelo died and I will be sad that the book is gone from my collection. Hopefully it’s next owner will enjoy the story as much as I did.