Hans My Hedgehog: A Tale from the Brothers Grimm

Kathryn Coombs, Author, Kate Coombs, Author, Brothers Grimm, Author, Kate Coombs, Retold by, John Nickle, Illustrator
Kate Coombs, illus. by John Nickle. S&S/Atheneum, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-4169-1533-1
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In a feat that may astound fairy tale cognoscenti, Coombs (The Runaway Dragon) and Nickle (Never Take a Shark to the Dentist) transform a once-prickly story into something witty and warm. The Grimms’ half-boy/half-hedgehog Hans is a shrewd bagpipe player; rejected by his parents, he rides away on a rooster to tend pigs, which he later sends to slaughter. This version’s likable Hans is an accomplished fiddler with loving parents, who retreats alone into the woods (riding his rooster and accompanied by attentive hogs). On two occasions, Hans’s music helps rescue kings who have become lost in the forest. Assisted by his loyal rooster and pigs, Hans visits each ruler’s castle and, on his second try, meets a princess who is willing to marry him (and, perchance, lift his curse, “Beauty and the Beast” style). Nickle’s jewel-tone acrylics, painted on parchment-colored backdrops and interspersed with spiky ink-black silhouettes, conjure an Elizabethan ambience. Coombs includes an afterword to highlight her welcome revisions. Whether readers know the original, there is joy in watching this plucky Hans triumph. Ages 5–8. Agent: Sanford J. Greenburger Associates. (Jan.)
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