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There are probably few children alive today who have not heard of The Ugly Duckling, The Emperor’s New Clothes or The Little Mermaid. Hans Christian Andersen brought these and 350 other stories to life in his desire to make people laugh.

Born into a poor family on April 2, 1805, Hans Christian Anderson was close to his shoemaker father. Every day at 2:00 pm they would read together. That made his father’s death even more tragic, and he ran away from home three years later at age 14. Andersen debuted as a writer in 1822 with Youthful Attempts and continued working until 1870 with the publication of his last novel, Lucky Peer. Andersen died in 1875.

In 1956, the Hans Christian Andersen Medal was created to honor one author and one illustrator every two years for their entire body of work.

Andersen’s birthday is now celebrated as the International Children’s Book Day, sponsored by the International Board on Books for Young People.

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