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The Nutcracker: With a Fully Orchestrated CD    by Stephanie Spinner & Peter Malone order for
by Stephanie Spinner
Order:  USA  Can
Knopf, 2008 (2008)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

An evening at the ballet to see The Nutcracker is a part of many families' seasonal celebrations. Now for little ones with early bedtimes, here's Stephanie Spinner's lovely picture book rendition of the holiday favorite (complete with 'a Fully Orchestrated CD' of Tchaikovsky's familiar music). Peter Malone's elegant illustrations take us back in time and bring the story to life.

It all begins with an excited Marie on Christmas Eve, her 'favorite night of the year.' She and her brother Fritz admire the beautiful Christmas tree and open gifts from friends and relatives. Marie's beloved godfather, Herr Drosselmeyer, a toy maker, presents life sized wind-up dolls - Harlequin, Columbine and a toy soldier - and also gives Marie a large wooden nutcracker. After a jealous Fritz breaks it, the toy maker bandages the nutcracker.

That night Marie dreams that her nutcracker is in danger and goes down to the drawing room. There the Nutcracker comes alive and leads an army of toy soldiers against attacking mice (Marie has always feared mice) led by a seven-headed king. After Marie saves her Nutcracker from the mouse king, he turns into a handsome young prince who flies her to the Land of Sweets, filled with sweet snowflakes, snow fairies, and of course the Sugar Plum Fairy.

A Note to the Reader tells of the history of the ballet (which was not well received till it came from Russia to the West), and that it typically includes very young dancers who dream of 'becoming a mouse, a prince, or a little girl on a magical journey.' Read this delightful rendition together, while listening to the music, and get in the mood for wintry weather and sweet holiday festivities.

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