April marks the birthday of one of the most famous storytellers of all time – the one and only Hans Christian Andersen! Hans Christian Andersen was born in Denmark on April 2nd in 1805, and during his life wrote plays, poems, novels, and most famously, fairy tales, many of which became touchstones in world children’s culture. His stories that are popular in America include The Little Mermaid, The Emperor’s New Clothes, The Princess and the Pea, and The Ugly Duckling. His stories are available in over 125 languages.
Hans’ aptitude for storytelling was apparent young, as he published his first story at the age of 17. His first really successful story collection was published in 1835 as parts I & II of “Fairy Tales.” These tales included such notable works as the stories mentioned above.
The allure of Andersen’s stories comes from their bittersweet outcomes, their unique characters, and their dramatic renderings of realistic conflicts faced by children and adults. Like many successful children’s authors since, Andersen struck upon a successful formula. To quote Andersen himself, “I seize on an idea for grown-ups and then tell the story to the little ones while always remembering that Father and Mother often listen, and you must also give them something for their minds.”
Hans Christian Andersen passed away in August of 1875, leaving behind a rich legacy for other children’s authors to build upon. Among his innovations were making toys come to life, which would later be seen in all sorts of literature and movies – Toy Story of course included! April 2nd is considered International Children’s Book Day, but his work warrants an entire month of celebration.
The works of Hans Christian Andersen can be studied and celebrated as part of elementary school writing projects or middle school writing projects. Older students can consider the themes of his most famous works, and how those are reflected in other studies they have done. They may even want to compare Andersen’s stories with Disney versions of the same (Andersen’s originals are often much darker). For younger children, creative explorations of the characters and themes of Andersen’s work can provide plenty of inspiration, both narratively and visually, for a Studentreasures book.
How do you plan on using Andersen’s work in your lesson plans? Let us know in the comments below!