“In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: It Goes On.”
Robert Frost

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Holly Boy . . .

With so much happening during the month of December, I didn't even come close to writing as many Christmas themed posts as I had wanted. Please indulge me in one more!

This has to be one of the strangest posts I have ever done.  While researching last year about a book I acquired called "The Holly Boy", I came up empty handed for my 1955 copy of this book, except for a very interesting comment on a blog post that you will see below (highlighted in green). The post was a quick review of a newer version of the book "The Legend of Holly Boy", the most interesting part came in the comment section.

Keep that in mind... but first let me introduce you to someone you have probably never heard of, The Holly Boy. Written by Frank Latino and illustrated by Beatrice Grover. Published by Helen Cole, Inc. 1955. This book seems to be the first edition.

Try as I might and even checking different search engines, I never found anything about The Holly Boy, it continually came up The Legend of the Holly Boy. I did not find one other image or mention of the book that I have in my possession. If any of you readers have information about this book or have ever heard or seen it, please share.  Let me tell you a bit about the story.

This is actually a very sweet Christmas book about a girl named Linda, who wonders about the happiness of a holly wreath hanging in her window.  She laments that the holly was alive, but now has been cut up and tied into a shape of a wreath and how could it possibly be happy? To her surprise the holly wreath comes alive and forms itself into the shape of a boy. He tells Linda not to feel sorry for him.

The Holly Boy continues to explain to Linda why he is the happiest he has ever been. After he feels he has convinced her that he is fine, the Holly Boy whirls himself back into the shape of a wreath and is back hanging on her window again. Below are the Holly Boy's last words to Linda.

It is a wonderful feel good message that we can all embrace during the holiday season. Of course we do not want to go down the path of where the Holly Boy ended up after the holidays, well not with Linda anyway.

We all know that he ended up in the fireplace, burn pile, or compost heap. So that is the basic story, but it didn't end there. Researching on the internet brings up all sorts of interesting tidbits.  As I mentioned earlier I came across this unusual post and comment.


Below is the comment from a reader of the now idle blog Here We Are.

jpholly said...

    I Am The Holly Boy....!
  In the late 1950s, my family (our last name is Holly) lived across the street from a man named John Jones and his family in Hackensack, New Jersey. Mr. Jones owned a recording studio that was used mostly for recording commercial jingles. Mr. Jones had a group of musicians that he worked with, including a jingle writer, an arranger, singers, instrumentalists etc. Hoping to cash in on the tremendous commercial success of such 1950s holiday songs as "White Christmas," "Silver Bells," "Let It Snow," etc., Mr. Jones decided to produce a Christmas record. Since we lived across the street and I was often playing at their house with their two sons who were approximately my age, he got the idea of calling the song "The Holly Boy." The words and music to the song were written by Frank Latino, whom I believe was one of the jingle writers he worked with. Here's the amazing part - the arranger and conductor of the music was a 27-year old trumpet player and studio musician named Quincy Jones. He was no relation to John Jones, the studio owner, but he is the same Quincy Jones who has since won 27 Grammy Awards!

    The song was released as a 45-RPM record called "The Holly Boy." It was sung by a very good singer named Betty Cox, who was at the time the substitute "Chanpagne Lady" on the Lawrence Welk Show.

    Frank Latino also wrote a story to go with the song that was published as a children's book - the book that is the subject of this blog post. The song never became a hit, but the book somehow caught on and is still in print and can be purchased through Amazon, etc., almost 50 years after its initial publication. In 2002, the book was used as the basis of a holiday movie called "A Light In The Forest" starring Lindsay Wagner, Edward Albert and Carol Lynley, among others. Unfortunately, the movie was not much of a success either. Old copies of the record are occasionally available for sale on ebay. If anyone wants to hear the song, I'll post a link.

    Sorry to be so long-winded, but that's my story....!

    John Peter Holly
    October 22, 2008 4:37 PM

Wondering if any of this could be true, I did a bit of research.
jpholly did use the proper title of the original book, which is "The Holly Boy".

The book was published in 1955, so it would have been mid-50's that he lived next to the writer, not late 50's. Which would have made the book over 50 years old, not almost.  The rest of the story seems to check out. Sure enough, I was able to locate the song done by Betty Cox, listen to it by clicking here Last night it worked and I listened to the song, for some reason I keep getting an error message today. Aarggh! Try this home video on Youtube. It's an amateur, but pretty funny!

This is the 45 record ....

But wait, there's more.  Is there a John Peter Holly?  Well, yes there is. There is a music conductor by the same name who lived in the New Jersey area for many years. It looks as though he may have relocated to MA. He may or may not be the same person.

Maybe he will show up and add a comment to my blog someday.

I would love to hear if any of you avid readers, vintage and Christmas 
collectors have ever heard of this book!

Below you will find an image of the Holly Boy provided by Seven Crows (Kari)!
She posted this on Pinterest and I have provided the link to her pin. Read her comment below.

Thank you Kari! I loved hearing more about the elusive Holly Boy!

Update 2015 !!!

I just received this email with more information about the Holly Boy! 

"Good morning cravecute, I found your article about THE HOLLY BOY by FRANK LATINO.

Here is the real history of the creation of The Holly Boy.

My mother Aimee Marino worked for American Home owned by Frank and Charlie Latino.
This Holly Boy was designed by my mother Aimee Marino and created both by Aimee Marino and Charlie Latino.

At the time of The Holly Boy creation I was a mere seven years old and cherished this Holly Boy.  I would play the song created for The Holly Boy and still to this day have one of the original books from1955. Although years have passed I still find it entertaining to read it every year at Christmas time.

I am pleased to have been able to share with you and your readers the true story of The Holly Boy.

Have a Merry Christmas,
Genevieve Marino Wilson"

Thank you Genevieve for sharing your story with us! 

.... And there's More!

Below is another Holly Leaf Man I found on Etsy.  It is slightly different than the one above and the seller is unsure of the maker. Click on the link below the picture for more information. 

 Rare Mid Century dancing smiling holly leaf man. Fake, bendable leaves sprinkled with mica on wire stand with card board base. Whimsical,:

I also came across some Christmas Tree Ornaments. They seem very similar in design to the drawings in the book.

 Christmas Holiday Decorations Ornaments Holly Leaf Men:  

Holly Leaf Men 

And so the Holly Boy story continues....


  1. I love Christmas in January - keep it up! Maybe we can keep posting Christmas until July... :)

  2. Haven't heard of this .... and I'm so confused ... it seems I get confused so easily lately, but I do think I get the jest of this .... very, very interesting.

    We still don't have a tree packed away yet.

    Love and Light,

  3. Great post! I'm not sure if I know this book, but there's something quite familiar about it. I loved reading even as a very young child, and went to the library regularly, so there's a chance I may have run across it. It's such a lovely story.

  4. I don't know the book at all, but what an interesting tale! It wouldn't play for me though - kept getting an error message.

    1. Yes, me too! I swear it did work the other night, I guess I broke it!

  5. Thanks for sharing what you do know about this very sweet character & book :) It's a new one to me - love the illustrations and the message it conveyed.

  6. I always marvel myself at the things kids think. Even though it is fiction, kids do think those things.

  7. What a great story! Keep the Christmas posts coming!

    1. I think that's it until next Christmas, which we now know starts in October!

  8. Hi Diane, Thanks for Tweeting about this, I've not come across it before - it looks lovely. The story behind it (and the comment) are both really interesting, and I would love to see a follow up if you find out anything more.

    I'm just back from Australia so not started blogging yet, but I could not resist a look at your post. I had several orders waiting to be processed when I got home and loads of emails, so I’m gradually working my way through them all. Next job is to unpack and catch up with all the washing and ironing. I hope to get back to doing a few blog posts soon. I'm also looking forward to catching up with everyone's posts - I missed a lot while I was away. Happy New Year.

    1. Barbara,
      Thanks so much for taking a look at this. Quite a mystery! Sounds like you have had a marvelous holiday. I look forward to future posts.
      Take Care,

  9. Wow..what a cool book..super awesome..love the illustrations! magical!
    Wishing you a beautiful day!

  10. Dear Diane - I have never seen or heard this story but how interesting. You certainly did your homework. Thanks for sharing.

  11. This is so cool Diane! I have never heard of this book! I love the comment and learning more about the song too! This is so interesting! Thanks for this post!

  12. O my, what a beautiful story! Although I still do feel a little sad for the Holly Boy..

  13. I've never heard of this book, but your story is one of the most fascinating I've heard. I want to know more! Please keep up posted if anything else develops. Awesome!

  14. Thank you all for your terrific comments! I keep thinking that there must be someone out there with another copy of this book. Think it is quite strange that it has not shown up anywhere online. Maybe by next Christmas the mystery will be solved.

  15. Really interesting story!

  16. I have not heard of the holly boy before, but I love the illustrations!

  17. We had the entire set - book. record and figurine when I was a child. I was born in 1960. Today only the Holly Boy himself is still around. You can see what he looks like here: http://www.pinterest.com/kari_storm/holidays/ He has a styrofoam head and body with a wire armature so you can pose him. We only brought him out at Christmas.
    Out Holly Boy is a little worse for wear and tear but your post has prompted me to see if the record is still in my crate of 45s. I know the book fell apart long ago and was thrown away - but I will start searching to see if I can get the complete set back together again. I am sure Holly Boy would love to hear his song one more time.

    1. I was thrilled to read your comment! I have checked out your pin and are following you on Pinterest now. Maybe I can help you complete your collection. I'll need to do a bit of research on the book again. It's been a couple of years since I've checked into it. Thanks so much!

  18. Your research must be making you the world's leading authority on The Holly Boy!

  19. My grandmother has an original copy of this book that was given to her personally!

    1. Tell us more Lauren. Who actually gave her the book?

  20. This is amazing. I'm working on the latest book from Frank Latino. He is 92 years old now and still writing beautiful stories. Nice post.

    1. That's wonderful to hear! Thank you for the update!

  21. Well Hello there! I am the actual Linda, and since no one I know will probably find this, I was born in 1955. Frank Latino is my Dad and Charlie is my uncle. I think one of my sisters wrote you this week. This is so charming that you found this book and all the additional details. There is more. This attention will warm my Dad's heart! Feel free to write, maybe we can get more pics of artifacts for you!
    Merry Christmas!


Thank you for leaving a comment! I do read them all and will try to respond if I'm able. Please know that all comments are appreciated, I love to hear your thoughts on my posts! ~ Diane