Craig This week's beautiful picture book, with illustrations done in colored pencils, celebrates the bicentennial of Hans Christian Andersen's birth. The inside cover pages are done in gold.
Andersen wrote "The Wild Swans" in 1837. This week's special edition book was translated by Naomi Lewis, who is regarded as one of the foremost authorities on Hans Christian Andersen. It was illustrated by Anne Yvonne Gilbert. Both author and illustrator live in England.
The fairy tale takes place in a far away land. That's where a king lives with his 11 sons and one daughter, Elisa. The king's wife has passed away.
The children live a royal life, indeed. They wear lots of rings and other jewelry. Even their books are adorned with, what appear to be, precious stones. Elisa sits on a little stool made of looking glass and has a picture book that cost half the kingdom.
The boys' shirts and Elisa's full dresses and aprons are designed with elaborate embroidery and gold buttons. Each boy wears a gold star at his heart and carries a sword.
All of the boys go to school where they write on gold slates with diamond pencils. Of course, all of them are very smart.
One day the king marries an evil queen, and the children's happy life comes to an end. The queen doesn't like the children at all. Right away, she sends Elisa to live with the peasants.
The queen decides to turn the princes into voiceless birds. She doesn't count on them becoming beautiful swans, however. Each swan wears a gold crown.
The swans fly out of the palace and over the forest, but before they leave the kingdom for a land over the sea, they circle the cottage where Elisa lives.
Elisa is very sad. She has only a single green leaf as a toy, and through a little hole in it, she peeks at the sun. The young girl is very beautiful. The roses whisper that she is even more beautiful than they are.
When she is 15, Elisa is brought back to the palace. The queen doesn't like it one bit that she is so pretty so before the king can see his daughter, the queen tries everything to make her look ugly.
Meanwhile, the wild swans fly back to their former home. They are able to do this only once a year and have to return the next day. The queen doesn't realize that they are swans during the day. At night, they become human again.
And there is so much more to this lovely fairy tale, including a daring rescue, a wedding, and Elisa's plan to turn her brothers back into human - for good. And, as with most fairy tales, there is a happy ending.
Hans Christian Andersen was born April 2, 1805 in Odense, Denmark.
This edition of "The White Swans" is published by Barefoot Books, Inc. (2005). The hardcover book costs $17.99. It is a new book at the Moffat County Library. ISBN 1-84148-164-5