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The Nutcracker

The Nutcracker

5.0 1
by E.T.A. Hoffman, Lisbeth Zwerger (Illustrator)

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The tale of Nutcracker, written by E.T.A. Hoffmann in 1816, has fascinated and inspired artists, composers, and audiences for almost two hundred years. It has retained its freshness because it appeals to the sense of wonder we all share. Maurice Sendak designed brilliant sets and costumes for the Pacific Northwest Ballet's Christmas production of Nutcracker and


The tale of Nutcracker, written by E.T.A. Hoffmann in 1816, has fascinated and inspired artists, composers, and audiences for almost two hundred years. It has retained its freshness because it appeals to the sense of wonder we all share. Maurice Sendak designed brilliant sets and costumes for the Pacific Northwest Ballet's Christmas production of Nutcracker and created even more magnificent pictures especially for this book. He joined with the eminent translator Ralph Manheim to produce this illustrated edition of Hoffmann's wonderful tale, destined to become a classic for all ages. The world of Nutcracker is a world of pleasures. Maurice Sendak's art illuminates the delights of Hoffmann's story in this rich and tantalizing treasure.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Katie Engen
Those who have seen the ballet may wonder why the Mice King is so mean or wish for more of the Nutcracker’s backstory. This retelling explains it all, though careful reading (and re-reading) may be needed. It starts with the seven-headed mouse on a mission to kill the Nutcracker. While ill and dreaming, Marie sees glimmers of the hero’s trials, defies the mice, and sacrifices for her Nutcracker. Yet mouse aggression increases and Marie’s mother continues to make light of Marie’s dreams. So Godfather Drosselmeier validates Marie and explains how the Nutcracker’s multigenerational royal feud entwines with his own past. Finally, the Mouse King is vanquished and the victorious Nutcracker-as-Prince takes Marie to his Marzipan Castle. Marie is returned abruptly to her family — alone and with no way back. After pining for her beloved hero despite his unsightly big teeth and odd jaw, Marie is rewarded when Godfather Drosselmeier returns with his nephew (the transformed Nutcracker). Sweetly detailed, moody illustrations balance and enliven the text-heavy pages. The poetic narrative offers drama, humor, romance, and confection-filled fantasy with a pleasant and subtly modern voice that honors the classic story. The best fairytales are both dark and redemptive; this one delivers both with a sprinkle of timeless holiday charm. Reviewer: Katie Engen; Ages 4 to 8.
Publishers Weekly
Another gifty edition of the E.T.A Hoffman story, The Nutcracker: The Heirloom Edition, illus. by Don Daily, features an oversize trim, unjacketed red cloth cover with gold foil accents and a ribbon page marker trimmed with a gold-tone nutcracker. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Though many children are familiar with the Nutcracker ballet, Schulman's (The 20th Century Children's Book Treasury) more complete version of Hoffman's "The Nutcracker and the King of Mice" will keep young readers on their toes. This vivid tale of intrigue, wicked curses and rodents hot on revenge satisfyingly reveals why the Mouse King and the Nutcracker were such bitter enemies. The text was originally published in 1979; kids and parents will like the way it's presented here, with a CD containing actress Claire Bloom's reading of the story and selections of Tchaikovsky's music, and with Graef's slightly dark, antique-flavored paintings, themselves spiced with 19th-century decorations, toys and sweets. All ages. (Oct.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature - Marilyn Courtot
An abbreviated version of this holiday story is retold here in rebus form. Kids are invited to place the stickers in their proper places within the text. Even if the stickers are lost (2 sets are included), the story can still be read since there is a blue outline drawing of each object. Each page also contains a list of the words that are represented by the stickers.
Children's Literature - Jan Lieberman
When exhausted parents collapse on Christmas Eve as their energetic children shout for more action, take out a copy of The Nutcracker. Put on the CD that accompanies the book so that the kiddies can hear the story read by Claire Bloom and listen to the background Tchaikovsky music. If the children are old enough, they can read along with Ms. Bloom and enjoy the illustrations of Renee Graef. This is a most pleasant diversion.
Children's Literature
Bound in red cloth with silver and gold stamped lettering, this edition also sports a satin ribbon with a gold nutcracker charm. The story is familiar-Maria's mysterious godfather, Drosselmeyer, brings her a nutcracker for Christmas. Maria and her brother Fritz tussle over the gift and the nutcracker is broken. Maria gently sets the figure on her doll bed and covers it with a thin blanket, but later that evening she sneaks downstairs to visit the nutcracker. A fierce battle soon erupts between the Mouse King and his minions and the nutcracker and other toy soldiers. After Maria intervenes in the battle, the nutcracker's enchantment is lifted and he regains his normal princely form. The two are swept away to the kingdom of the sugar plum fairy and are entertained with exotic dances and copious sweet treats. The story includes more of the tale than many versions published for children. The illustrations are detailed and colorful-some span two full pages. Every household needs one copy of The Nutcracker (as well as The Night Before Christmas), and this is an edition that will be treasured. The text is a new revision and the illustrations are dated 1996. 2003, Running Press, Ages all.
— Dr. Judy Rowen
School Library Journal
Gr 1-5-This lovely adaptation is based on Hoffmann's classic story and includes a CD recording with selections from Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker performed by the London Symphony Orchestra. The text includes the often-omitted "Story of the Hard Nut," which is not part of the ballet but does serve to further readers' understanding of the cause of the conflict, and of the courage and goodness displayed by Clara. Paschkis's artwork ranges from single page to vignettes bordered with Christmas decorations relating to the action on the adjacent text, to a final, lush, double-page spread. An antique-beige background is warmly complemented by a palette of yellows, oranges, and bluish greens. Even if you have the versions by Maurice Sendak (Crown, 1991) and Janet Schulman (HarperCollins, 1999), you'll want to make room for this one.-L. F. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
According to the introduction, the beloved Yuletide ballet that we see was based on a gentler version of the tale by Alexandre Dumas pere. This version, which differs from the ballet in several ways, is based on Hoffmann's 1816 original and tells a richer tale. Clara and Fritz are delighted with the Christmas gifts of their godfather Drosselmeier, especially the Nutcracker, which Clara cares for even after Fritz breaks its jaw. Clara encounters the Mouse King and his minions not once but twice in dreamlike sequences, and in between, she hears Drosselmeier's stories of "the Hard Nut" and "Why the Nutcracker Is So Ugly." Those intensify her resolve and add layers to the story. The gouache illustrations have a beautiful folktale dreaminess-echoes of Chagall here-as Paschkis borders center images with horror vacui designs in single bright colors. The figures are angular and exaggerated but wonderfully detailed. Paschkis plays with repetitive motifs and silhouetted patterns: Clara's long braid regularly whips out of the picture plane. The accompanying CD by the London Symphony Orchestra contains excerpts from Tchaikovsky's score. Unfortunately, there is no credit given for either the introduction or the retelling itself. (Picture book/folktale. 7-10)

Product Details

NorthSouth Books
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
8.90(w) x 10.70(h) x 0.40(d)
AD990L (what's this?)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

E. T. A. Hoffman (1776-1822) was a short-story writer and novelist who ranked among the major figures of German romanticism. He was also a composer, designer, music critic, and a conductor of the Leipzig and Dresden operas. He is best known for creating the story of the Nutcracker, which was set to music by Peter Llyich Tchaikovsky in 1892, becoming an instant classic.

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The Nutcracker 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an excellent way to learn about the Nutcracker ballet - this book has cut outs and a stage that the characters can be set up on - we read each act and set up the stage before we read it - My 3year old now knows every charcater in the nutcracker !