Janisch, Heinz

Hans Christian Andersen: The Journey of His Life

(2) K-3 Translated by David Henry Wilson. Illustrated by Maja Kastelic. On a carriage ride to Copenhagen with her mother, a young girl strikes up a conversation with a kindly older gentleman. They exchange pleasantries; he reveals that he is a writer, particularly of fairy tales. She's interested, so he volunteers to tell her a magical story. It's a tale of a poor youngster who eventually becomes a famous writer. "He sometimes felt as if he'd got himself a kingdom--the kingdom of letters." The tone is gentle, the language often poetic. "It's you, isn't it?" asks the child, and the gentleman--Hans Christian Andersen--confirms her suspicion. Throughout, the illustrations not only pace the story, with panels, half- and full-page art, and double-page spreads, but also indicate shifts in time and content. For example, the carriage ride is depicted in browns, blue, and hints of pink, while sepia-toned sequences recall the events Andersen is retelling. Detailed, multi-hued pastels accompany descriptions of several of Andersen's stories, which he explains as either coming from his own experiences (once small and helpless like "Thumbelina," for example) or the observable foibles of others ("The Emperor's New Clothes"). Many readers will notice visual references to folktales and nursery rhymes within the illustrations of his stories. This biography-based picture book concludes in fantasy as the travelers leave the ground and fly to Copenhagen, just like the boy in "The Flying Trunk." Appended with an author's note.


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