The Nutcracker in Book Form
It's that time of year again! Time for ballet companies all over the world to put on their annual productions of The Nutcracker. The colorful costumes, the beautiful dancing, the famous Tchaikovsky score... Well, I love all things related to The Nutcracker. Cases in point: my Nutcracker board on Pinterest and my most-viewed post on this blog of all time.
For the second year in a row, our elementary school took an all-school field trip to see the abridged school performance of the ballet downtown. Our school is a performing arts magnet, and the girls' school dance teacher was dancing in the production again. This year, she performed the Arabian pas de deux. The kids loved it. The girls know a lot of people in the production, which makes it pretty special. But Mom wanted to see the ballet, too, so another trip was made downtown to see the full ballet, Saturday night.
As we always seem to do before a special event, at home, we pulled out books.
The Nutcracker first appeared in a story called "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King," written in 1816 by E.T.A. Hoffmann. If you are unfamiliar with the original story, please read the Wikipedia synopsis I linked to above, or here is the whole text. Alexandre Dumas published a revision the story in 1844. It was the revision that inspired the ballet in 1892.
We own a few (now out-of-print) bargain books, and we hit the library for a few new books. I thought I would share some of the examples out there. I will be honest, I haven't read or seen all of these in person, but I would love to go through them all. These books are either still in print or so recently out-of-print, they can easily be obtained. There are some wonderful less traditional versions out there, but I stuck with the versions featuring human characters, based on the familiar story.
For adults, teenagers, and precocious older children, give the original E.T.A. Hoffmann story a try. Compare it to the Alexandre Dumas version.
|From left to right: Nutcracker and Mouse King by E.T.A. Hoffman & The Tale of the Nutcracker by Alexandre Dumas. Penguin Classics, 2007. The Nutcracker and the Mouse King by E.T.A. Hoffman, illustrated by Gail DeMarcken. Orchard Books, 2009. The Nutcracker by E.T.A. Hoffman, illustrated by Maurice Sendak. Crown, 2012 (reprint).|
Or just curl up with a little one and a beautiful picture book adaptation. Some of these favor the Hoffmann version, some the Dumas, and some follow the ballet in its simplest story form.
|Top (left to right): The Nutcracker, based on the Balanchine ballet, illustrated by Alison Jay. Dial, 2010. Mary Engelbreit's Nutcracker by Mary Engelbreit. HarperCollins, 2011. |
Bottom (left to right): The Nutcracker Ballet by Vladimir Vagin. Scholastic, Inc., 2002. The Nutcracker by Michael Hague. Chronicle Books, 2003. The Nutcracker by Susan Jeffers. HarperCollins, 2007.
Share the gorgeous Tchaikovsky music with a young one! Some books come with CDs...
|From left to right: The Nutcracker, illustrated by Julie Paschkis. Chronicle, 2001. The Nutcracker, retold by Stephanie Spinner, illustrated by Peter Malone. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2008. The Nutcracker, adapted by Janet Schulman, illustrated by Renee Graef. HarperCollins, 1999.|
And surprise! - The Nutcracker lends itself to some lovely "tricks," like lift-the-flaps, moving die-cuts, and fold-out pages that recreate the magic of the ballet.
|From left to right: The Nutcracker by Patrick Regan, illustrated by Natasha Kuricheva. Andrews McMeel, 2012. The Nutcracker: A Magic Theater Book by Geraldine McCaughrean, illustrated by Kristina Swarner. Chronicle, 2012. The Nutcracker Ballet: A Book, Theater, and Paper Doll Fold-Out Play Set by Mara Conlon. Peter Pauper Press, 2008.|
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