Rather long to read aloud at one sitting, this retelling of Hoffmann's story is based on Balanchine's version of the ballet and differs somewhat from other versions. Hayden, who danced in the New York City Ballet production many times, provides the text. While hers is a straight narration of the tale rather than an explanation of the ballet, she clarifies various points of the story that might be hazy to anyone who has simply watched a performance or read a brief plot summary. Usually appearing as full-page illustrations opposite boxed and bordered panels of text, Johnson's attractive impressionistic paintings have a dreamlike air. Recommended for libraries with a seasonal demand for "Nutcracker" books, and particularly for those in communities where the Balanchine choreography is performed.