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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Hans Christian Andersen: The Journey of His Life
by Heinz Janisch
Age Range: 6-8
“The most wonderful fairy tale is life itself,” Danish author of fairy tales, Hans Christian Andersen, once said. In Hans Christian Andersen: The Journey of His Life, translator David Henry Wilson makes Austrian author Heinz Janisch’s depiction of Andersen accessible to English-speaking children who want to learn about the biography of the famous fairy-tale author through a quasi-fairy tale itself. Readers learn about Andersen’s life from the perspective of Elsa, the inquisitive little girl in the blue dress on a carriage ride who happens to be conversing with a charismatic older man, who turns out to be Andersen himself. “I’ll tell you the story of a boy who learned to fly,” Andersen tells Elsa, and the illustrations by Maja Kastelic that are full of vibrant colours in the present time become neutral and grey to evoke memories of Andersen’s childhood in Denmark.
Packed with allusions to his well-known fairy tales such as The Flying Trunk, Thumbelina, The Princess and the Pea, The Ugly Duckling, Clumsy Hans, The Emperor’s New Clothes, and The Snow Queen, this book makes a point of discussing how each and every one of these classic fairy tales are not just special because they are brimming with magic but because they all contain elements of real life, real people, and real emotions. Any mention of fairy tales in this book goes hand-in-hand with the richly coloured illustrations; however, this whimsical illustration pattern is not exclusive to just mention of pre-existing fairy tales, but also present-time conversations between Elsa and Andersen, as well as any moments within the book that evokes a magical feeling—therefore equating life as a fairy tale itself.
Catherine Hurwitz (Nov 2021)