cover image Hans Christian Andersen: His Fairy Tale Life

Hans Christian Andersen: His Fairy Tale Life

Hjordis Varmer, , illus. by Lilian Brøgger, trans. by Tiina Nunnally. . Groundwood, $19.95 (113pp) ISBN 978-0-88899-690-9

Varmer, an award-winning Danish children's book writer, collaborates with Brøgger on this account of Andersen's anything-but-fairy-tale life. Exquisitely sensitive, by turns terrified and arrogant, Hans Christian jolts from triumph to triumph, tortured by failed love, social humiliation and ill health. Unlike Jane Yolen's recent A Perfect Wizard , Varmer covers Andersen's story chronologically from cradle to grave, and is less interested in the question of his fairy tales as revelations of the author's psyche. Varmer records Andersen's life as she might write of a favorite nephew, with an attractive blend of honesty and affection ("When he was a child, Hans Christian never dreamed that people might not be interested in listening to him read aloud"). Brøgger draws scores of whimsical spot illustrations, covering the margins of each page with odd characters, figurative images and scribbled backgrounds that sometimes suggest the dark corners of Andersen's nightmares. While some children will be dismayed by the unrelenting misery of Hans Christian's life (even the day on which his hometown fêtes him as an honorary citizen is marred by a severe toothache), others may be heartened by the story of an extraordinary figure who never gave up the idea that he would succeed one day. Ages 10-up. (Oct.)