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Kid Konnection: Nutcracker

November 10, 2012

Marie and her brother quickly tire of their Christmas gifts but Marie spies a nutcracker and becomes fascinated with it.  She and her siblings take turns cracking nuts with it and, before you know it, it’s broken.  Heartbroken, Marie bandages him and puts him to bed, promising him that her godfather, the clockmaker, will fix him.

That night, Marie dreams of a battle between a seven-headed Mouse King and her brother’s toy soldier’s (who are commanded by the nutcracker).  She wakes up the next morning with her arm bandaged and tells her family of the battle.  They all laugh at her but she’s sure it’s true.

Marie’s godfather tells her how the Nutcracker came to be.  When the King set traps that killed the Mouse Queen’s children, she vowed revenge and she cast a spell on the King’s daughter.  In trying to break the spell, a young man inadvertently cast it upon himself instead, giving him the appearance of a nutcracker.

In the meantime, the Mouse King demands candy from Maire to keep Nutcracker safe.  Marie complies but Nutcracker finally asks for a sword to defend himself.  He kills the Mouse King.  Marie tells him if he were real, she would marry him no matter what he looks like, breaking the spell.  The two eventually got married and Marie became a queen.

Through the years, I’ve heard plenty about the Nutcracker, after all it’s performed every holiday, but as far as I could remember, I’ve never read the book or seen the ballet, so I was happy to finally rectify that by reading Nutcracker by E. T. A. Hoffman and translated by Ralph Manheim.  I’m glad I read it but can’t say that it will become one of my favorites.  The story was originally written in 1816 and that’s reflected in the language and setting of the book.  I had to reread several passages to discern their meaning because the story is written in a very formal manner.  I had to pay close attention to what I was reading to understand the plot.

This book is marketed as juvenile fiction but I’m not sure it will really appeal to kids because of the language and the complicated plot.  All but the most mature young readers will need to experience this book with a parent to really understand it.  If you read this as a child or have read it with a child, I’d love to know what you think.

The version of Nutcracker I read is beautifully illustrated by Maurice Sendak.  The pictures in this book are stunningly gorgeous – seriously, these are pictures I would love to frame.    If you want to own a copy of this book, this is the copy to buy.

For more children’s books reviews, go to Booking Mama’s feature, Kid Konnection. If you’d like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children’s books (picture, middle grade, or young adult) from the past week, leave a comment as well as a link on her site.

Review copy provided by Random House.  I am an Indiebound Affliate.
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18 Comments leave one →
  1. November 10, 2012 5:53 am

    I’ve seen the nutcracker many times and even performed in the ballet a few times (crowd scenes), so I bet I’d love this one. I would think that any girl who knows or has seen the ballet would like the book.

  2. November 10, 2012 6:08 am

    My university orchestra performed The Nutcracker each December so I’m quite familiar with the music. I loved being part of the production. The Sendak Nutcracker has been in our personal library for many years. The kids loved the illustrations but would agree with you on the text.

  3. November 10, 2012 6:28 am

    I read this also and loved this version! I’m having a giveaway for it soon.

  4. November 10, 2012 7:20 am

    One of my son’s loves Classical music. I’m glad you reviewed this book. The story line is complicated, isn’t it? I need to reread it. You have done a good review on it.

  5. November 10, 2012 8:24 am

    I love Maurice Sendak’s work. :-)

  6. November 10, 2012 8:34 am

    Sounds like they changed it but it’s still good.

  7. November 10, 2012 9:34 am

    I know nothing about The Nutcracker too!! but the artwork would make me want to pick up a copy of this to look at the pictures!

  8. November 10, 2012 2:48 pm

    It’s for the same reason my daughter hesitates when I want to read a classic with her. Too formal. Sometimes it’s okay because the plot is so good but at other times it’s like you say, re-reading several passages just to understand.

  9. November 10, 2012 4:08 pm

    I have this to read, too…and I am looking forward to the illustrations!

  10. November 10, 2012 6:16 pm

    I have the same book, illustrated by Maurice Sendak (one of my favorite artists). We also have a movie version of this story.

  11. bookingmama permalink
    November 10, 2012 8:09 pm

    This might one of those books that is wonderful to sit out during the holidays and peek at the gorgeous illustrations.

  12. November 10, 2012 8:11 pm

    I think the illustrations would be the reason I’d get this book.

  13. November 10, 2012 10:43 pm

    I don’t really know anything about the story but have this one to read soon!

  14. November 10, 2012 10:43 pm

    PS It doesn’t really seem like a juvenile book to me.

  15. November 10, 2012 11:54 pm

    I’m really looking forward to this one. It’s so gorgeous, and like you, I’ve never read the book. I’m not even sure I’ve really sat through the production of it either.

  16. November 11, 2012 10:54 am

    The illustrations are what make me want to read it. I’ve seen the Nutcracker performed a couple of times, and it was incredible…and I’m not really a fan of the ballet. I think it was the costumes that really interested me.

  17. zibilee permalink
    November 12, 2012 10:38 am

    Last Christmas, I saw a children’s performance of The Nutcracker, and it was adorable, now I am interested every time I see something that reminds me of it. This book does sound like it would be better read by a slightly older audience, but I am betting that the kids who do get it would love it. Great review today!

  18. November 13, 2012 4:46 pm

    Seems like this could be a great gift for a kid during the holidays.

    Several years ago I went with my oldest niece to see a live performance of the Nutcracker ballet. She was four years old at the time, and sat at the edge of her seat in wonder, so engaged with what was going on. It’s a magical story.

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