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*Thumbeline* by Hans Christian Andersen, illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger
Also by Hans Christian Andersen:

The Selfish Giant

The Snow Queen

The Princess and the Pea

The Annotated Hans Christian Andersen

The Princess and the Pea

The Princess and the Pea (Little Golden Books)

Also illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger:

Dwarf Nose

The Selfish Giant

The Night Before Christmas

Aesop's Fables
by Hans Christian Andersen, illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger
Ages 4-8 28 pages NorthSouth April 2009 Paperback    

Noted children’s illustrator Lisbeth Zwerger has created a lovely adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s fable Thumbelina. This beloved story about a young girl no bigger than one’s thumb has been ably rendered here.

For those unfamiliar with the plot, Thumbelina (or Thumbeline, as she is called in this book) grows from a barleycorn given to a childless woman by a witch. The woman plants the barleycorn, and a beautiful tulip-like flower with red and yellow petals grows from it. When the woman kisses the petals, the flower springs open to reveal a tiny, delicate girl perched in its center.

Thumbeline’s beauty is such that all manner of animals from toads and June bugs to moles fall instantly in love with her and want to marry her, unwilling though she may be. But Thumbeline also finds true friends among many other woodland critters, and in the end manages to find a partner who is her perfect match in every way.

The gentle plot and its accompanying illustrations have a calm, soothing feel to them. The artwork is somewhat muted and delicate, but still rich in detail and sly humor. A black cat peers out from behind a genial witch’s black robes; a prospective toad mother-in-law frets over Thumbeline’s trousseau as she slumbers. These and other details give the eye much to linger on and enjoy. Zwerger deftly captures the rustic charm of the tale and its country setting and imbues each critter in the woods with a unique personality.

While Thumbelina is one of my favorite tales by Hans Christian Andersen, this is not my favorite work by Zwerger. For one thing, I would have liked many more illustrations. Although the book is labeled as being suitable for ages three and up, many three-year olds will not be able to sit through a reading of the lengthy text without the aid of more artwork to hold their attention. However, the plot and illustrations are only mildly suspenseful and scary, so a four- or five-year old should find this perfect.

Overall, this is a solid and appealing adaptation of a much-loved fairy tale, but not an extraordinary one.

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  Usha Reynolds/2009 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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