Hans Christian Andersen: The Journey of His Life

Heinz Janisch, trans. from the German by David Henry Wilson, illus. by Maja Kastelic. NorthSouth, $18.95 (56p) ISBN 978-0-7358-4388-2
This fanciful picture biography by Janisch opens as a girl in a coach headed for Copenhagen puts a startling question to the passenger sitting across from her: “Are you old?” Kindly Hans Christian Andersen is happy to answer this question and more: “I’m always pleased to meet inquisitive children.” He traces, as if telling one of his own stories, the arc from his family’s poverty and his father’s illness (“All night long the family could hear him coughing and talking feverishly”) to fame and success (“The son of the poor cobbler was now being invited to the homes of lords and princes”). He speaks of the power of fairy tales to “hold a mirror out in front of other people without them realizing it.” With a featherlight touch, Kastelic paints Andersen’s earlier life in somber sepias and switches to full-color, bright spreads as his fame grows. Readers will smile over scenes from Andersen’s tales: swans reflected on lakes, courtiers in doublets and parti-colored leggings, swallows darting to and fro. Janisch’s story reads like a fairy tale, and, more gratifyingly, it ends like one, too. Ages 4–8. (Sept.)
Reviewed on : 10/22/2020
Release date: 09/01/2020
Genre: Children's
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