Children everywhere are familiar with the fairy-tale world of the Brothers Grimm, who made “once upon a time” a part of our universal vocabulary—but few people know much about the brothers themselves. Inspired by their desire to document their national literary heritage, the two devoted brothers spent most of their adult years collecting and publishing German Märchen and Sagen, fairy tales and legends. This thorough and compelling biography addresses the social, political, and historical influences that shaped the lives and stories of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm.
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Donald R. Hettinga is a professor of English at Calvin College, where he writes about children's literature and codirects the Festival of Faith and Writing. He lives with his family in Grand Rapids, Michigan. This is his first book for children.Review:
"Impressive for its skillful combination of scholarship and readability, this biography belongs in all collections." School Library Journal
"Remarkably, Hettinga makes the Grimms' lives interesting without concentrating on the one element most familiar to children. . . .The handsome cover art will draw readers into this well-conceived, well-exectuted biography." Booklist, ALA, Starred Review
Hettinga lays the intertwined careers of Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm against a turbulent backdrop of Napoleonic invasions, civil unrest, and family misfortunes. He presents them as a pair of librarian/scholars who, despite (some) differences of temperment and interest, lived together for nearly their entire lives, achieving not only international renown for their researches into language and folk literature, but local notoriety as two of the "Gottingen Seven," a group of professors fired for refusing to take a loyalty oath to an autocratic new king. . . .[H]is account of how the Grimms collected their tales through "tricks and trades, gifts and gatherings" makes fascinating reading.
With conversational language and colorful historical references, Hettinga makes the account accessible ("Once upon a time, a very real time—in fact, a time when George Washington was still General Washington and was just thinking about becoming the first president of the United States, he begins"). . . . Black-and-white etchings, paintings and drawings round out the volume, which ably potrays the personalities of the two brothers and those who influenced them.
Not only does this book provide a realistic look at their lives and times, it also shows the brothers as real people, devoted to each other and to their family. . . .The author drew on rich materials, often letters the brothers wrote to each other or to family members, that provide a wealth of fascinating detail to enliven what could be a dull story for young readers mostly interested in the brothers' early lives.
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