Hans Christian Andersen was born to poor parents in Denmark in 1805. At age fourteen, a few years after the death of his father, Anderson left his hometown for Copenhagen to be an actor, singer, and dancer. It was his writing, however, that made him famous around the world. His stories captivated readers. In this fine collection of tales, respected literary critic and leading authority on Andersen, Naomi Lewis has selected familiar and some unfamiliar stories to include. "The Princess and the Pea" will be familiar to readers, as will her wonderful telling of "The Nightingale" and "The Little Match Girl," who, freezing to death on New Year's Eve, flies off to heaven with her long-dead grandmother. Other tales are unfamiliar but seem quintessentially Andersen. "Elf Hill," with its magic and humor, involves the wedding of one of the Elf-King's daughters to the Great Troll of Norway. In "Little Ida's Flowers," a girl witnesses tulips dancing in the night. The enchanting illustrations garnered artist Emma Chicheter Clark a nomination for the Kurt Maschler Award for this book, when it was first published as Elf Hill in the United Kingdom. Clark also is the author/illustrator for the "Blue Kangaroo" series. 2005 (orig. 1999), Frances Lincoln Children's Books, Ages 4 to 8.
Valerie O. Patterson
"Emma Chichester Clark's outstanding illustrations capture the spirit of the stories brilliantly and the details really add to the feel of the book. Another anthology which will be treasured and which makes a perfect gift with its high-end production."
K-Gr 4—Renowned for her brilliant interpretations of Andersen's tales, Lewis captures both the writer's droll humor and sense of the melancholy in elegant but readable prose. Ten tales are presented here. Some, such as "The Nightingale" and "The Princess and the Pea," are popular classics, while others, such as "The Happy Family" and "Elf Hill," are less familiar. Chichester's illustrations have a dreamy, ethereal quality with soft blues and greens and lots of charming detail. As Lewis stated in her informative introduction, these tales are "jewels," and this book would be an excellent way to introduce a new generation to the genius that was Andersen.—Grace Oliff, Ann Blanche Smith School, Hillsdale, NJ
There are good reasons some of Andersen's tales have gone out of vogue. Lewis and Chichester Clark attempt a fresh take on selections of Andersen's literary fairy tales, endeavoring to reaffirm the classic status of such familiar tales as "The Princess and the Pea," "The Little Match Girl" and "The Nightingale" while at the same time reviving more obscure stories, such as "The Happy Family," "The Money Box Pig" and "The Shepherdess and the Chimney Sweep." The latter tale has much in common with the better-known (and better) "Steadfast Tin Soldier," but it pales in comparison due to its use of outmoded terms such as a reference to "an old Chinaman, a Mandarin [figurine] who could nod his head." The titular shepherdess, meanwhile, embodies the very essence of insipid feminine helplessness, making it hard to see why the chimney sweep fancies her at all. This story isn't the solitary weak spot in the collection—downright odd (not intriguing, but alienating) plots are unlikely to demand repeat readings, and the tired story of a patriarch marrying off a girl is revisited to absurd extremes in "The Jumping Competition." Meanwhile, more familiar tales are watered-down, at best. Chichester Clark's soft, whimsical pictures do punctuate humorous elements of the stories, and a picture of flowers dancing in the nighttime is a highlight of the book. Reteller Antonia Barber and illustrator Margaret Chamberlain attempt a similar update of nine mostly familiar Tales from Grimm, publishing simultaneously, with greater success.Alas, this one isn't a swan after all. (author's note) (Fairy tales. 7-10)