Hans My Hedgehog

Welcome to Day 5 of the Hans My Hedgehog blog tour, celebrating the publication of Kate Coombs's retelling of the Grimm brothers' tale (illustrated by John Nickle; Atheneum, 2012). I'm delighted to be hosting Hans today for several reasons: I'm particularly fond of folk and fairy tale retellings, which I've written about before; and I can't resist wee Hans holding his fiddle, as seen on the cover of his book.

Kate is the author of The Secret-Keeper, an original fairy tale (paintings by Heather M. Solomon; Atheneum, 2006), and two middle grade fantasy novels, The Runaway Princess (FSG, 2006) and The Runaway Dragon (FSG, 2009). She also blogs at Book Aunt ("Because OTHER people give you clothes and video games for your birthday!"), and I always look forward to her reviews as well as her thorough, thoughtful comparisons of folk and fairy tale retellings.

Hans, she writes in Retellings Beautiful and Beastly, is a close cousin of the Beast in that other, more famous story. He's half a hedgehog, cursed before birth by his father's wish for a son. In the Grimms' version of the tale, Hans's father and mother reject their prickly baby (his mother won't even nurse him); but here, Hans is loved, albeit still lonely. Aside from the cover image, this is perhaps my favorite illustration in the book: I love the way his parents gaze at baby Hans in wonder (as all new parents do, of course!), although his mother still looks slightly stunned.

Kate makes other changes to the original (see the Author's Note), but this one seems fundamental to sharing Hans My Hedgehog with your own prickly little people. And I hope you do. Congratulations, Kate and Hans!

[A final, favorite detail: "The palace seamstress made them clothes for the wedding, and of course she sewed a velvet suit for Hans, though he struggled to fit it over his quills."]