Hans Christian Andersen: The Journey of His Life

NorthSouth. Sept. 2020. 48p. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9780735843882.
Gr 1-4–Hans Christian Andersen’s stories are such a prevalent part of children’s literature that readers sometimes forget they were written in the 1800s. Traveling by stagecoach in 1800s Denmark, a seven-year-old girl named Elsa and her mother meet an older gentleman who offers to tell the child a fairy tale to pass the time. The book’s design uses many graphic novel elements. Some pages are divided into panels with rounded edges; others are full-bleed illustrations. Instead of using speech bubbles, the book places text within the image panel or outside the frame. Kastelic presents the narrative and Andersen’s fairy tales in soft but vibrant watercolors, while the retelling of Andersen’s own past is rendered in a sepia palette. Poetic language conveys the magical qualities of Andersen’s life and the hardships he faced, while the illustrations depict enchanting, unexpected scenes. As Andersen talks to Elsa, he describes many of his stories, such as “The Ugly Duckling,” “The Snow Queen,” and “Thumbelina.” A brief note above the copyright information reveals that references to familiar authors of children’s literature and famous children’s book characters “crept” into the illustrations.
VERDICT This lovely book should be savored. The pages should be studied for every detail, then read alongside Andersen’s stories for a wholly immersive experience.

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