Hans Christian Andersen was born on 2 April 1805 in Denmark, an only child. His father encouraged his love of literature and his mother, although uneducated herself, believed in and encouraged her son. Hans was a weak child with poor health. His mother spent a lot of time with Hans, telling him stories, often using puppets and a makeshift theatre. Hans grew up loving stories and the theatre and decided he wanted to be an actor.
He went to Copenhagen to find work as an actor but was not successful. He was tall and ungainly and not a particularly good actor. After many failures, Hans tried his hand at writing. His first book, a collection of fairy tales which was published in 1835, was not an immediate success. But Andersen did not give up. He continued writing. Ten years later, his stories began to receive recognition and were translated into other languages. His fame and his stories began to spread all over the world.
One of Hans's more popular stories is The Ugly Duckling. This story is almost like the life of Hans Christian Andersen. Hans's success is a tribute to his parents who looked at the ugly duckling and saw a beautiful swan.
Less known here but also one of Hans Christian Andersen's popular stories is The Last Dream of the Old Oak Tree. This story tells about the long life of an oak tree and all that it has witnessed. Compare that with the life of a mayfly which was only one (human) day. However, for the mayfly, the one day is a long life and it is measured in many moments. This story was published in 1858 when Andersen was 53 and already famous. Writing this story, Andersen must have been thinking of his life and how much he had to be thankful. For in the end, this story ends on a hopeful note, recognising the beauty and inevitability of life.
The Last Dream of the Old Oak Tree was republished by Oyez!Books in 2015 and illustrated by Chooi Ling Keong. Chooi Ling used a combination of medium including colour pencils. She loved using colour pencils for their soft and gentle feel although it took a long time to achieve the effect she wanted.
Take a look at the book and you will see the love that has gone into the illustrations. We think Andersen would be very happy with the illustrations, don't you think?
Trivia: Do you know, Hans Christian Andersen was a contemporary of Charles Dickens. Hans loved visiting England and he enjoyed Dickens's company. He would turn up at Dickens's house and unfortunately, he would stay so long and outstay his welcome.