Writing ‘picture books without text’WIE MOON-HEE
The author is the national news 2 team reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.
Anyone who visits the Danish capital of Copenhagen usually visits Nyhavn, a canal whose name means “new harbor,” which opened in 1673. Colorful buildings along the canal create a fairytale-like atmosphere.
In Nyhavn, visitors would look for the red house and the yellow house, where internationally renowned Danish children’s book writer Hans Christian Anderson (1805-1875) lived. He lived there for 18 years, at Nyhavn 20, 67 and 18. Houses in Nyhavn were painted in different colors so that fishermen could find their homes easily at night.
Anderson was born as a son of a shoemaker in Odense, the third largest city in Denmark. The name of Odense, one and a half hours away from Copenhagen by train, originates from Odin, the highest god in Norse mythology. In 1819, 14-year-old Andersen first came to Copenhagen with a dream to become a stage actor. In 1828, he entered the Copenhagen University and began to display literary talents as he wrote a few plays and novels.
While living at Nyhavn 20, Anderson completed Fairy Tales Told for Children, the first collection in 1835. Two years later, he published the Little Mermaid, and by 1872, he had written more than 160 fairytales, including The Ugly Duckling, The Emperor’s New Clothes, The Snow Queen, The Little Match Girl and Thumbelina.
You can find traces of Anderson in Copenhagen City Hall, where his statue is standing. The statue is looking at the Tivoli Gardens considered the origin of amusement parks around the world. The gardens were created by Georg Carstensen, a friend of Anderson, by renovating a garden owned by the royal family in 1843. Walt Disney visited the park several times to get inspiration for Disneyland.
On March 21, Korean illustrator Suzy Lee won the illustration prize at the Hans Christian Anderson Awards, which are known as the Nobel Prize for children’s literature. Established in 1956, one writer and one illustrator are chosen for their contribution to children’s literature every two years. Lee aims to express her ideas with illustrations as much as possible rather than text. She is writing “picture books without text.” She has expanded the boundaries of children’s literature with originality in a different way than it had been in the days of Anderson. I send my support to her.