The Perfect Wizard: Hans Christian Andersen

Overview

He was the son of a cobbler-awkward, funny-looking, and perhaps a bit crazy. But Hans Christian Andersen went on to become the most beloved children's writer of all time. Here in rich detail that includes quotes from Andersen's own stories, Jane Yolen explores his youth and how his words were inspired by life experiences. His was a childhood that saw the death of his father, an early love for the theater, and the burning passion to become a writer against all odds.
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Overview

He was the son of a cobbler-awkward, funny-looking, and perhaps a bit crazy. But Hans Christian Andersen went on to become the most beloved children's writer of all time. Here in rich detail that includes quotes from Andersen's own stories, Jane Yolen explores his youth and how his words were inspired by life experiences. His was a childhood that saw the death of his father, an early love for the theater, and the burning passion to become a writer against all odds.
Lushly illustrated by Dennis Nolan, The Perfect Wizard is the ideal selec- tion to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Andersen's birth on April 2, 2005.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
"Once upon a time, a baby was born on a bed that was made from a coffin platform," begins this illuminating picture-book-biography of Denmark's favorite storyteller, which deftly blends Andersen's real life events with his imagined world. Starting with this probably apocryphal story that Andersen liked to tell about himself, Yolen (Owl Moon) immediately sets up the mingling of fact and fiction that so characterized the writer. The son of a cobbler and washer-woman, Andersen called his life "a beautiful fairy tale," and Yolen selects facts from his history that reveal both the harshness and wonder of the life he led. Each spread contains a full-page sepia-toned painting that illustrates the episode related about his life, opposite; in addition, Yolen selects a relevant quotation from one of Andersen's stories, accompanied by oval spot art. For instance, when Yolen describes the boy as "a gawky, long-legged lad... a stork among pigeons. A cuckoo in the nest. An ugly cygnet in a hatch of ducks," Nolan (Fairy Wings) portrays the tall boy in his first stage role along with a quotation and spot illustration from Andersen's "The Ugly Duckling." The artist's work seems ideally suited to move fluidly from biographical moments to storybook images. Despite an unfortunate, cluttered design that tends to obscure Yolen's narrative (the quotes often appear in a larger font than the main text), the book intriguingly explores the fusion of an artist's work and life, and leaves readers with much to ponder. Ages 6-up. (Feb.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Dreamy writing and illustrations fill the pages of this biography of the great fairy-tale writer; they are a perfect match for this picture book biography. The book begins: "Once upon a time, a baby was born on a bed that was made from a coffin platform . . . Or at least such was the story he told." The opposing picture is a softly shaded infant framed by the wings of a gigantic angel and the figure of Father Time. Yolen, famed herself for inventive fairy tales, has the perfect voice for weaving magic into Anderson's life of poverty and struggle for fame and publication, a life made bright by imagination, folklore, story and theater. The diffused cast of Dennis Nolan's sepia and pastel illustrations bring gentleness to the hard realities of the author's life. At the bottom of each page is a quote from one of Andersen's tales. These are described in the page's biographical information; they provide an additional way for children to connect Anderson's life with his stories. 2005, Dial, Ages 8 to 12.
—Susie Wilde
School Library Journal
Gr 1-5-"Hans told lies, too. About his past life. About his present life. He called them fairy tales." Yolen uses these words at the start of her simple, wistful, and winsome portrait of a very complicated and, by most accounts, very unhappy man. From the humble, one-room shoemaker's house of his birth to his tortured schoolboy days, from the haunting trauma of his father's death to the eventual recognition of his genius, readers follow this persistent artist through the landscape of 19th-century Denmark on his quest for some kind of personal and professional peace. This volume, with its patrician wallpaper and sepia-tinged pastel pictures framed with gentle arches, is handsome where its ugly-duckling subject was, by his own reckoning, most assuredly not. In her affectionate, fairy-tale-flavored narrative, Yolen pairs events from Andersen's life with excerpts from his stories, providing new and different interpretations of the tales in this context. Full-page paintings depict the realistic scenes, while smaller vignettes illustrate the fictional ones; these oval-shaped pictures seem to let viewers peer right into the meanderings of Andersen's yearning imagination. The quotes take on new and different meanings when readers see them connected, both visually and verbally, to real experiences and emotions. With a well-measured note from the author and a meticulous listing of excerpt sources, this is a carefully crafted, lovely, and loving tribute to the father of the modern fairy tale.-Kathy Krasniewicz, Perrot Library, Old Greenwich, CT Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
From the ugly duckling to the emperor's new clothes, Denmark's 19th-century talespinner has brought us some of the most enduring stories and vibrant metaphors in Western culture. Yolen works hard at making his unlovely and often unhappy life comprehensible for younger readers. She concentrates on his early days: desperate poverty, weird personal habits, and physical unattractiveness combined with an early patchwork education and a later desperate push for theater experience. In the end, though, with the stories learned at his illiterate mother's knee and his own idiosyncratic reading and drama experience, he was famous indeed, the title's description coming from Strindberg. Nolen creates wonderful textured illustrations in grayed colors heightened with white, like master drawings on sepia-toned backgrounds. Each spread displays a full-page image, an oval vignette, and a deliciously apt quotation from one of Andersen's stories, often a lesser-known one. Very well-imagined and -integrated. (author's note, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 7-10)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780525469551
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 2/28/2005
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 7 - 10 Years
  • Lexile: AD870L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 9.12 (w) x 11.36 (h) x 0.48 (d)

Meet the Author

Jane Yolen

Jane Yolen is an acclaimed children's book author whom Newsweek magazine called "The Amer-ican Hans Christian Andersen."

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