De Paola retells the sentimental old story, which he encountered as a child in a version by Anatole France, about an orphaned little juggler-beggar who takes up with a troop of traveling players and soon becomes a famous performer on his own. In time Giovanni grows old, fumbles, is ridiculed, and becomes a beggar once more--but gives his grandest, and final, performance when he takes shelter in a church and is moved to bring a smile to the sober Child in a Lady and Child statue. His juggling ""was magnificent! Then suddenly his old heart stopped. . ."" and the brothers who find him dead on the floor discover also that ""the Child was smiling."" This is in the limited tradition of the believers' tale, less impressive to outsiders; but it's easy to be enticed by de Paola's early, pastel street scenes, and when the miracles comes along his unprepossessing figures and warm familiarity help cut the piety.