Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Writer Wednesday - Hans My Hedgehog

Kicking off Writer Wednesdays, we have a special treat today. I have the opportunity to review Kate Coomb's fun retelling of the Brothers Grimm tale, Hans My Hedgehog, and you all have a chance to win a copy of the book!

This week's tip for writers fits in well with the review. Writers need to be readers first, and to read from the best books. Hans My Hedgehog would certainly fall into that category.

I've long admired Kate's writing. She has a beautiful way with words and a quick wit that makes her books fun to read. Her clever MG adventure tales Runaway Princess and Runaway Dragon are some of my favorites for just that reason. (How can you not love a dragon named Laddy?) Kate's also an accomplished poet, with a book of ocean poetry, Water Sings Blue, making its debut next month. We'll see if we can't get her to come back and visit for that release.

Now for a true story... the other morning, as I was trying to rush my 7th grader to get ready for school, he kept telling me, "Just a minute! I'm almost done reading!" When he finally came out of my office, he said, "That was a good book." He had just started James Dashner's The Maze Runner earlier in the week, and I was impressed he had finished already. "No," he said. "I it was that Hans My Hedgehog book."

Keeping a thirteen-year-old boy engaged in a fairytale retelling is an accomplishment. Which is an apt lead-in to this review. In Hans My Hedgehog, Kate has managed to make what could be a rather grim story charming and magical. In Kate's signature lyrical prose, Hans comes alive, a lonely boy/creature who turns to solitude and music when he feels like an outcast. Fun touches such as Hans's loyal pigs and their mischievous revenge on the first king, and the humorous details in the illustrations (including the clever silhouettes) make the book rereadable, again and again. I give Hans My Hedgehog five stars.

The official book blurb:

A classic tale of love and acceptance from the Brothers Grimm is beautifully rendered in this magical retelling.

Hans is an unusual boy. Born a hedgehog from the waist up, he knows what it’s like to truly be an outcast. Even his amazing fiddle playing can’t help him fit in. So Hans flees to the forest with his herd of loyal pigs and only his music to keep him company. But then a most unusual thing happens: When Hans crosses paths with two kings with two lovely daughters, his luck starts to change. Will this lonely soul find true love after all?

This lively and lyrical retelling of the classic Grimm's tale, paired with lush, detailed illustrations, reminds us of the power of music, the importance of belonging, and the transformative effect of love.

Hans My Hedgehog earned starred reviews from both Kirkus Reviews and Publisher's Weekly. The New York Times review praises the "welcome changes", and Booklist calls Kate's adaptation "eloquent and intricate."

You can find more about Kate and her books on her (very clever) website, on her Book Aunt review blog, and by following her on twitter.

To enter to win a copy of Hans My Hedgehog leave a message below, telling one thing you know about hedgehogs (or have learned by quickly googling so that you can enter this contest!) This contest will remain open until Monday, January 30th.

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This week's Links:

Getting enough sleep? (Ginger Calem) This week's Writers Butt post and challenges. Bring it!

How to publish an e-format picture book (jujubeeillustrations) Tutorial c/o Julie Olson. Gold!

25 Things Writers Should Start Doing (Terrible Minds) Do them.

10 Commandments for a Happy Writer (Nathan Bransford) Excellent.

6 Signs of Description Misuse (W.I.P It) Are you doing it wrong?

3 Questions to Ask to see if your scene is dramatic enough (Story Fix) C/O Scheherazade.

Writing a Lot... And then some. (Beyond the Margins) Push yourself one degree higher...

How To Build a Writer's Support Network (Rock Your Writing)

Tell Me First, Then Show Me (Writer Musings) Excellent examples

Tell it to the Mountain (Beyond the Margins) The problem with problem novels.

On Quirky Character Names (Writer Unboxed) Love them or hate them?

Placing Too Much Importance on Passions (Jane Friedman) Do they make you happy?

The New Author Pitch: Show, Don't Sell (The Book Deal) Good points.

Now go. Read a good book. And Write.