The fairy tales for which Andersen is now famous comprise only a small part of his lifework. Born in Odense, the son of a poor shoemaker, Andersen worked in a factory after his father's death. However, he soon displayed a talent for poetry and went to Copenhagen to pursue other outlets. Andersen's first collection of poems was published in 1830 and a second in 1831. Andersen complained bitterly about the lack of encouragement for his first volume of stories, Fairy Tales, Told for Children (1835). In 1843, he began the series called New Adventures, the title no longer addressing itself exclusively to children. His contemporaries received his novels and travel books enthusiastically. In his old age, Andersen said, "My fairy tales are written as much for adults as for children. Children understand only the trimmings, and not until they mature will they see and comprehend the whole." During his lifetime his talent was more esteemed more generally in other countries than in his native Denmark. Charles Dickens, for example, called the Dane "a great writer." Andersen died in Copenhagen in 1875 after a long battle with cancer.
Naomi Lewis is a leading authority on the writing of Hans Christian Andersen. She herself is a distinguished children's writer, poet, anthologiser and a much-respected reviewer of children's books.
Jan Pienkowski was born in Warsaw in 1936. During the war Pienkowski moved a lot, from Poland to Austria, Germany, Italy and finally to England in 1946. He went to The Cardinal Vaughan School in London and then to King's College, Cambridge, where he read Classics and Englishand became involved in stage design. Pienkowski co-founded the greetings card company, Gallery Five. He worked in advertising, publishing, and doing graphics for the BBC children's TV series Watch! In his spare time, he started to illustrate books for children. He won the Library Association Kate Greenaway Medal in 1972 for his silhouette illustrations to Joan Aiken's The Kingdom Under The Sea and again in 1980 for Haunted House. Jan pioneered the modern Pop-up book with Haunted House, Robot, Dinner Time, Good Night and 17 others. Meg and Mog, the series of books which Jan created with Helen Nicoll, has reached 14 titles. Four of them became the Meg and Mog Show, exuberantly staged by David Wood and designed for the West End by Jan. His lifelong interest in stage design landed other commissions: two shows for Theatre de Complicite, then Beauty and the Beast for The Royal Ballet, Covent Garden and a spectacular Sleeping Beauty at Disneyland, Paris.