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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Thoughts (and Videos) of Hans Christian Andersen: The Journey of His Life

Hans Christian Andersen was a weird dude.

There. I said it. And no one’s gonna fight me on it. Cause he was strange. He didn’t fit in, he was dreamy, and he cared WAY too much about bad reviews. Seriously, one time he was staying at Charles Dickens’ house (you can read all about THAT little incident in Wild Things: Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature, if you’re curious) and when he found out about a bad review of one of his fairytale collections he literally threw himself onto the lawn in a big temper tantrum, and only Dickens could get him to come inside again. And his fairy tales were so strange! Read Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu sometime if you don’t believe me. With the possible exception of Thumbelina and The Emperor’s New Clothes they were all so dour and sad . . .

And yet . . . and yet . . . the man had a gift. No, truly, he did. He really and truly knew how to write stories that would lodge so firmly in the collective unconscious that they could never be forgotten.  He knew how to capture the imagination for not just generations but centuries. Who does that? There is also the not insignificant fact that he honestly was really good with children and a genius with a pair of scissors. He could tell a story and cut paper, timing it so that when he finished he’d cut out a scene from his tale, like you or I would a snowflake or a row of paper men.

When I worked as a librarian in New York City I had the chance, twice, to do professional storytelling in front of the Hans Christian Andersen statue in Central Park. That statue gives you a real affection for the guy. And now, lo and behold, we’ve a picture book biography of him on the horizon! Releasing on September 1, 2020 will be Hans Christian Andersen: A Journey of His Life by Heinz Janisch, illustrated by Maja Kastelic, and a translation by David Henry Wilson. It’s already garnered a starred review from Kirkus which said it was a, “smoothly translated blend of biography and storytelling,” and, “conveys a compelling sense of the man whose stories have been loved around the world and across centuries.” The final word?  

“ ‘A very special fairy story,’ indeed.”

On that note, please enjoy this glimpse into artist Maja Kastelic’s studio, when she was working on the book:

Many thanks to Heather Lennon and the folks at North South for the video.

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. I had no idea there was a statue in NYC! When I can get back into “the city” I am going to have to go pay homage.