We love to encourage reading, especially for young people, and we’re happy to celebrate International Children’s Book Day today. This worldwide event takes place every year on April 2, which is also famed Danish author Hans Christian Andersen’s birthday. It began in 1967 to celebrate and inspire a love for reading, and also to call attention to children’s books.
Have you and/or your children read the stories of Hans Christian Andersen? His translated works have been popular for nearly two centuries.
Andersen Fairy Tales
Hans Christian Andersen (1805–1875) is best remembered for his fairy tales, which transcended age and nationality, have been translated into more than 125 languages and turned into films, plays and ballets. He became an icon of Western culture, and his stories presented lessons of virtue and resilience in the face of adversity. Some of his fairy taCelebrating International Children’s Book Day les include “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” “The Princess and the Pea” and “The Ugly Duckling.”
For American children, some of Andersen’s most famous works may be those that were turned into films. Did you know “The Snow Queen” was the biggest inspiration for the hit Disney film Frozen? Disney also made “The Little Mermaid” film in 1989, and it has grossed over $200 million. The movie is credited for breathing life back into Disney animated feature films and starting a new Disney Renaissance. It was adapted for the stage in 2007, and a live-action film adaptation is in the works.
Additionally, Andersen’s fairy tale “Thumbelina” was a feature film in 1994, and actress Jennifer Love Hewitt was the voice of Thumbelina in the 2002 direct-to-DVD animated movie, The Adventures of Tom Thumb and Thumbelina. The character was also part of a Barbie movie in 2009, and most recently, in 2015, a modern version of Thumbelina appears in the Disney Junior series, Goldie and Bear.
Celebrating Books for Young People
International Children’s Book Day was first organized by Jella Lepman, founder of the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY), in 1966. Every year, a different national section of IBBY hosts this day to encourage parents, teachers and children from around the world to participate in reading events in their local communities hosted at libraries, schools and community centers. Latvia, a small country in Baltic region of Northern Europe, is this year’s host country.
The IBBY also annually presents the Hans Christian Andersen Award, which is the highest international recognition given to an author and an illustrator of children’s books. The two awards recognize lifelong achievement in an author and illustrator whose complete works have made an important, lasting contribution to children’s literature.
The Author’s Award has been presented since 1956, and the Illustrator’s Award has been given since 1966. Both recipients are selected by a distinguished international jury of children’s literature specialists, whose selection criteria includes the aesthetic and literary qualities of writing and illustrating. The jury also takes into account the child’s point of view and the ability to stretch a child’s curiosity and imagination.