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HANS MY HEDGEHOG by Kate Coombs Kirkus Star


A Tale from the Brothers Grimm

retold by Kate Coombs & illustrated by John Nickle

Age Range: 4 - 10

Pub Date: Jan. 24th, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-4169-1533-1
Publisher: Atheneum

Hans, half hedgehog and half human, lives as a hermit, deep in a forest with a rooster steed and an entourage of pigs, happily playing his fiddle, until two kings make promises that send him looking for his just reward: a princess.

This unusual Grimm adaptation utilizes traditional fairy-tale treatments (lyrical language, graceful lettering) alongside innovative artistic choices (embedded paneling, sharp spot art). Inset oval illustrations, framed with blurred edging, draws eyes, while coal-black silhouetted scenes contribute to storytelling, adding even more depth to rich acrylic illustrations. Flecked, smudged backgrounds look like fibrous paper and complement the pictures’ prevalent, ripe oranges, yellows, reds and blues. Plump, puppetlike people might seem dated, but Hans breaks from old-school fairy-tale renderings as a contemporary character; he’s cute, comical and soulful enough to seem both freakish and sad. To older children, just seeing lines drawn between insiders and outsiders, between the attractive and unattractive, Hans’ story seems grave. While the ending is completely expected, readers can't help loving it and even giving up a little gasp. When a kind princess inspires magical music from Hans’ fiddle, he transforms into an entirely human hottie—and even looks like his old spiky self, with red tufted hair and a scratchy beard! 

Prickly, a bit funny and a bit dark: classic Grimm, modernized. (author’s note) (Picture book/fairy tale. 4-10)