The Nutcracker written (or rather, adapted) and illustrated by Susan Jeffers:
It's early December, and this year in the Bach household that means one thing: the countdown has begun. No, not that countdown. The countdown to The Nutcracker - we're going to see the ballet this weekend! I am soooo excited!
I thought it would be nice to get the Bachsters a book about the Nutcracker so that they can read the story and understand what it's all about before we get to the performance. There are many picture books out there on the Nutcracker, all based on a lengthy fairy tale called The Nutcracker and the Mouse King written by E.T.A. Hoffmann, published in 1816, on which the ballet is based (the ballet premiered in 1892). But I am particularly fond of this one by Susan Jeffers because it tells the story in such an understandable kind of way. There is a nice author's note at the back of the book, in which Jeffers explains that she decided to create the book because she wanted to present a simpler retelling for picture-book-age children, and she also wanted to incorporate ballet into the images. Jeffers has accomplished both of these goals with aplomb.
For those who are not familiar with the story, it is about a little girl named Marie (often called Clara, although I'm not sure why her name was changed from the original at one point in time) who is enjoying a holiday party with her family and their guests. Her godfather, Herr Drosselmeier (who is a bit magical) gives Marie a special gift at the party: a nutcracker. Her little brother, Fritz, grabs the nutcracker and breaks him. Marie wraps him up and falls asleep under the Christmas tree later that evening. She wakes up in the middle of the night, and the tree has grown to an enormous size (or perhaps she is now tiny). Before she knows it, she is surrounded by a bunch of mice and their king (who has 7 heads!). And her nutcracker has come to life and is fighting all the mice!
The nutcracker, Fritz's toy soldiers and Marie win the battle with the mice. Nutcracker turns into a Prince and escorts Marie to the land of the sweets, where they enjoy the dances of all the inhabitants (like Coffee, Mother Ginger & her polichinelles and the Sugar Plum Fairy). One day, Marie will find herself Queen of this wonderful land.
I absolutely love The Nutcracker, & have ever since I was a child. I love ballet (and love sweets!) and adore the music. In fact, I listen to my Nutcracker CDs (composed by Tchaikovsky) throughout the year. I think the music is my favorite part of the Nutcracker experience - if you've never listened to the entire composition, please treat yourself & sit down with a cup of hot chocolate and enjoy some of the finest classical music created!
Whether you are planning to see The Nutcracker this month or not, The Nutcracker by Susan Jeffers is a wonderful retelling of the story that will turn anyone into a Nutcracker enthusiast!