Hans Christian Andersen by Heinz Janisch

Hans Christian Andersen: The Journey of His Life by Heinz Janisch, illustrated by Maja Kastelic (9780735843882)

A little girl takes a coach ride with Hans Christian Andersen. As they head to Copenhagen, the author answers her questions and then tells her a fairy tale. It’s the story of a boy who learned to fly, the story of his own life. Born on a Danish island, Hans’ father was a cobbler who mended shoes. In the evening though, he would read to Hans from a big book of fairy tales. He also built Hans a puppet theater and performed shows for his son. Then Hans’ father was sent to war and returned tired and sick. He died when Hans was eleven. As Hans grew up, he was inspired to try to join the theater as an actor but his voice broke at age fifteen and he had to find a different way. Hans truly loved writing and was sent to school tuition free. Now Hans was on his way, a boy who grew up to be famous by sharing parts of himself in his fairy tales.

First published in Switzerland, this translated version is a rich look at a famous author who has captivated children for generations. Framing his life with questions from a small child is a clever device to allow the character to answer questions about his life and his stories. Allowing Andersen to tell his own life story as a fairy tale is also a believable format that invites readers to really get immersed in the life of this amazing figure in literature.

The illustrations by Kastelic are dreamy watercolors that move from realistic colors on the carriage ride to sepia tones as Andersen tells his personal story. They really burst from the page though when Andersen talks of his fairy tales, becoming rich and vibrant, the colors fantastical and wild. These changes beautifully show just as the story does, the power of story.

A superb picture book biography. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by NorthSouth.

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