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by Jan Brett ; illustrated by Jan Brett

Pub Date: Nov. 2nd, 2021
ISBN: 978-0-593-10982-3
Publisher: Putnam

Brett applies her signature visual storytelling style to the Christmas favorite.

By setting her tale in a snowy, 19th-century Russian city and including in her trademark marginal vignettes both golden musical staves crowded with notes and animal instrumentalists clad in traditional Russian attire, Brett situates this retelling in Tchaikovsky’s ballet rather than Hoffman’s original story, though she retains Hoffman’s names. And as the ballet does, Brett crams her stage with characters, beginning with the Christmas party when Drosselmeier presents Marie with the Nutcracker and continuing through the battle with the Mouse King to Marie and the Nutcracker’s visit to what is here called the land of the Snow Princess. Once there, anthropomorphic Russian animals replace the ethnically stereotyped sweets of the ballet, with arctic foxes, flying squirrels, and hedgehogs taking turns in a snowy wonderland. Like the plot of the ballet, not much makes sense under close examination; unlike the ballet, Brett’s figures display very little movement, so hemmed in are they. Even compositions with relatively few figures feel crowded with decorative detail and superfluous tiny animals, so much so that readers may need to work hard to parse meaning. Despite its adherence to the plot of the ballet, this is not a particularly good preparation for it, but readers already familiar with it may enjoy taking in Brett’s vision. All human characters present White. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Both busy and meandering, but readers may like the dancing Cossack bears.

(Picture book. 4-8)