Kate Coombs

Hans My Hedgehog | Hedgehog Facts

Hans My Hedgehog
A Tale From The Brothers Grimm

retold by Kate Coombs
illustrated by John Nickle

Atheneum, New York 2012
ISBN-10: 1416915338 / ISBN-13: 978-1416915331

     The couple so longed for a child that one day the man cried, "I want a son even if he's half a hedgehog!"

     The next spring the farmer's wife gave birth to a child who was exactly that—a boy from the waist down and a hedgehog from the waist up.

     "You've cursed our little one!" the farmwife scolded. But she was a mother just the same, so she wrapped her prickly baby in a thick quilt and called him Hans My Hedgehog.

From the Publisher

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 he 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. Can this lonely soul find true love after all?

This lively and lyrical re-telling of the classic Grimm's tale reminds us of the power of music, the importance of belonging, and the transformative effect of love.

From the Critics

from Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

This unusual Grimm adaptation utilizes traditional fairy-tale treatments (lyrical language, graceful lettering) alongside innovative artistic choices (embedded paneling, sharp spot art). ...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. ... Prickly, a bit funny and a bit dark: classic Grimm, modernized.

from Publisher's Weekly (starred review)

In a feat that may astound fairy tale cognoscenti, Coombs (The Runaway Dragon) and Nickle (Never Take a Shark to the Dentist) transform a once-prickly story into something witty and warm. ... This version's likable Hans is an accomplished fiddler with loving parents, who retreats alone into the woods.... On two occasions, Hans's music helps rescue kings who have become lost in the forest. Assisted by his loyal rooster and pigs, Hans visits each ruler's castle and, on his second try, meets a princess who is willing to marry him (and, perchance, lift his curse, "Beauty and the Beast" style). Nickle's jewel-tone acrylics, painted on parchment-colored backdrops and interspersed with spiky ink-black silhouettes, conjure an Elizabethan ambience. Coombs includes an afterword to highlight her welcome revisions. Whether readers know the original, there is joy in watching this plucky Hans triumph.

from "Thorny Creatures" by Pamela Paul, Children's Book Review, New York Times, January 11, 2012

Kudos to Kate Coombs (The Secret-Keeper) and John Nickle (Never Take a Shark to the Dentist) for dusting off the story of a lonely swine-boy with a musical sensibility, his rooster steed and a forest full of dancing pig friends. In this very liberal retelling, Hans's parents are accepting rather than cruel, and Hans himself is a more admirable if less nuanced creature (the Brothers Grimm would have him slaughtering pigs and mistreating a princess).

The changes are mostly welcome, even if Hans's fiddle, instead of bagpipes, seems a bit pedestrian. Still, this twisty mash-up of "The Princess and the Frog" and "Beauty and the Beast" introduces a spirited hero who handles his misfit status well, even if he does resort to a smattering of revenge. Creatures with quills, no matter how sweetly illustrated, are bound to be a bit testy.

from the New York Journal of Books

Once a hedgehog always a hedgehog? Surely such a thought is unfit for a fairy tale. Kate Coombs has taken a bloody old tale of a neglected half-boy and tuned it up, enchanting more children than the overlooked version tucked away in unabridged collections of Grimms' folktales....

While some purists might object to the many liberties Ms. Coombs takes in her retelling, most readers will rejoice at this lilting transformation of a too-grim tale.
Reviewer: Janice Floyd Durante

from School Library Journal

This vibrantly illustrated retelling of an obscure fairy tale transforms a boy born with the upper body of a hedgehog from a beastly oddity into a sympathetic protagonist...The narrative retains the tone of classical Grimm stories, but the language, despite some difficult vocabulary words ("rootling," "retinue"), is much more accessible to young readers. Details like the giant red rooster Hans rides or his herd of pigs, whose dancing, cavorting, and mischief-making will amuse readers, suggest a surreal playfulness as he tries to claim his rewards... Perfect for storytimes and possibly a jumping-off point for age-appropriate discussions about ostracism.
Reviewer: Mahnaz Dar

from Booklist, January 2012

Once upon a time a farmer and his wife wanted a child so badly that the farmer cried out, "I want a son even if he's half a hedgehog!" And, thus, Hans, half hedgehog and half boy, is born.... This retelling blends whimsy, poignancy, and drama—and, while following the Grimms' basic story line, it's a lighter, less gruesome version of the tale. Coombs' adaptation is eloquent and intricate, while Nickle's richly hued illustrations have a classic flavor and feature varied perspectives, silhouettes, inset cameos, and lighthearted flourishes, like Hans' challenge in getting dressed. An author's note provides background and story inspirations.
Reviewer: Shelle Rosenfeld

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