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Nutcrackers Galore December 24, 2012

Posted by ccbooks in Book Reviews.

Tis the season for The Nutcracker ballet! As a former dancer (I performed at the Kennedy Center as a snow tree angel in The Joffrey Ballet’s Nutcracker at age 9) I have a lot of love for this story, both in the original somewhat creepy short story, the colorful romantic ballet, and as a vehicle for expressing dreams of dance stardom for many, many girls. Here are a few of the Nutcracker books in my collection.

Nutcracker NoelNutcracker Noel by Kate McMullan

Noel has visions of stardom in The Nutcracker, but ends up stuck with a role as a tree, while show-off Mia has a solo as a cookie doll. Some wise words from her dance teacher remind her that what matters is performing with your best effort, no matter the role, and on the performance night she is able to reach out and tell Mia the same thing. The simple text and well-chosen details make this a great read-aloud and of course I love that Noel has the same role that I once danced.

The NutcrackerThe Nutcracker retold by Geraldine McCaughrean

Many authors have retold the story of the ballet, with varying levels of complexity, but I like this slightly simplified version, retold by Geraldine McCaughrean and illustrated by Nicki Palin. McCaughrean adds some points that are not generally part of the traditional ballet story, such as Drosselmeyer’s nephew, but they are unobtrusive. The snow scene is eliminated and the Kingdom of the Sweets is shortened, but the period costume details are very pretty and the night scene with the Mouse King has lots of drama.

Becoming a BallerinaBecoming a Ballerina: a Nutcracker Story by Lise Friedman & Mary Dowdle

Many chapter books about girls and ballet feature the show The Nutcracker and it’s routine for the protagonist to wish and wish to be Clara. In this new non-fiction title, the protagonist is Fiona, a real girl who studies with the Boston Ballet and she has been cast as Clara in the ballet’s annual Nutcracker production. The book follows Fiona through auditions, rehearsals, costume fittings and final dress as she works to learn her steps and movements and build the show with the rest of the company. A great choice for dancers!

Noelle of the NutcrackerNoelle of the Nutcracker by Pamela Jane, illustrated by Jan Brett

In this slightly dated, but still charming 80’s story, Ilyana longs for the ballerina doll that she sees on her class trip to the toy shop. Her hopes are dashed though, first by the mean rich classmate who declares that she’ll make her father buy it, and then by the news that the doll has been purchased by a ballet company to be used in The Nutcracker. But Ilyana’s imagination has been fired, and in the end it is her creativity in a school Christmas pageant that eventually helps her get her heart’s desire. This is a good one for younger chapter book readers, and though the Jan Brett illustrations are in black and white, they are as detailed and beautiful as her later holiday books.

NutcrackerNutcracker by E.T.A. Hoffman, illustrated by Maurice Sendak

In the original Hoffman story, the little girl is called Marie (Clara is the name of her new doll), and her adventures last longer than a single night. After an encounter with the Mouse King, Marie falls ill, and to cheer her up, Godfather Drosselmeier tells her the story of Princess Pirlipat. Only after hearing the full story of the Princess and Drosselmeier’s young nephew can Marie take action to save her prince and journey to Candytown and the land of dolls. Sendak designed sets and costumes for a production by the Pacific Northwest Ballet and this edition includes many full spreads of the backdrops as well as detailed costumes of all the ballet characters and many more. This is a must have for any fan of either the ballet or of Sendak.

Merry Christmas!



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