Tales From Hans Christian Andersen by Naomi Lewis and Emma Chichester Clark

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Tales From Hans Christian Andersen by Naomi Lewis and Emma Chichester Clark

Category: For Sharing
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Lorraine McDonald
Reviewed by Lorraine McDonald
Summary: Enter the wonderful fantasy world of Hans Christian Andersen with nine tales lovingly retold by Naomi Lewis and splendidly illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark. With some old favourites like The Little Match Girl and some lesser known tales such as Elf Hill, this is a classic book to share with a broad appeal. One to read and re-read.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 72 Date: June 2014
Publisher: Frances Lincoln Children's Books
ISBN: 9781847805102

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As a child, fairy tales for me were synonymous with the Ladybird Classics series. Whilst the memory of the stories and the accompanying paintings remains very fresh, I don’t recall any mention being made of the original authors. I was eager then to read Tales from Hans Christian Andersen, a collection of nine stories, and identify which classic tales from my childhood he wrote.

This handsome collection of stories, re-told by Naomi Lewis, starts with an introduction to Hans Christian Andersen. Though probably more appealing to parents like me than to children eager for story time to begin, this is interesting. To précis, Andersen was a nineteenth century Dane with a lively imagination. Having come through a childhood of adversity, he wrote prolifically, though not exclusively, for children. His stories are characterised by anthropomorphism of both animate and, more unusually, inanimate, objects. Having read the book, I would say that the feel is whimsical compared to the edginess of the Brother’s Grimm. That said, death, illness and poverty are not far away in several of these tales.

Naomi Lewis has included a broad range of Andersen’s tales. Probably the best known, though I hadn’t previously realised this was actually Andersen, is The Princess and the Pea. The Little Match Girl is also familiar. I remember this as a maudlin tale filled with Victorian sentimentality, but presented here it is genuinely touching. The Shepherdess and the Chimney Sweep is another classic. Aside from The Little Match Girl, this is probably the story I enjoyed the most with the most developed plot and characters. The Money Box Pig was new to me, and what a bizarre little tale. Maybe you have to be under five to appreciate this one, but it had me baffled. Thanks to my youthful prolific Enid Blyton reading, toys coming to life makes sense but the extended description of their, frankly fairly mundane, evening entertainment and the ultimate demise of the titular pig left me wondering if there was a message in there somewhere and if so what had I missed?

This was just a warm up for Elf Hill, a peculiar story of elves and trolls meeting to broker, that fairy tale staple, a marriage. This odd tale opens and closes with the observations and ruminations of a lizard and earthworm who are spying on proceedings. I laughed out loud at the description of some elf girls staging a free style dance performance called ‘Breaking the Rules’, that draws the comment of ‘Whew!... That was something!’, from the old troll. Things turn increasingly surreal in The Jumping Competition where a flea, grasshopper and a jumping jack, made of an old wishbone, rubber band, sticks and sealing wax, compete to marry a princess. I’m still trying to make sense of that one.

The illustrations are provided here by Emma Chichester Clark of Blue Kangaroo fame. She makes a great job of interpreting the stories. I particularly liked the snail’s eye views that accompanied the tale of The Happy Family. The inner leaf jacket illustration of elves, moths and leaves appealed to me and give a nice flavour of Andersen’s whimsical tales.

Hans Christian Andersen certainly had an original and fertile imagination. Some of his more obscure flights of fantasy reveal a sly wit and sense of humour. Lewis does his tales justice. She writes with an economy of language and seldom puts a word wrong. The direct speech is convincing, never stilted and is great to read aloud. She is clearly passionate about her subject matter and appears to remain faithful to her source. In her hands Andersen’s stories are safe for another generation to read and re-read.

For more fairy stories including some Grimm and some more Andersen, try A Treasury of Fairy Tales by Helen Cresswell.

If you liked the illustrations take a look at Where Are You, Blue Kangaroo? by Emma Chichester-Clark.

Buy Tales From Hans Christian Andersen by Naomi Lewis and Emma Chichester Clark at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Tales From Hans Christian Andersen by Naomi Lewis and Emma Chichester Clark at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Tales From Hans Christian Andersen by Naomi Lewis and Emma Chichester Clark at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Tales From Hans Christian Andersen by Naomi Lewis and Emma Chichester Clark at Amazon.com.


Booklists.jpg Tales From Hans Christian Andersen by Naomi Lewis and Emma Chichester Clark is in the Top Ten Books For Sharing 2014.

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