Saturday, December 8, 2012

Kid Konnection: Nutcracker

Every Saturday, I host a feature called Kid Konnection -- a regular weekend feature about anything related to children's books. This week, I'm going to share with you a gorgeous version of a classic Christmas story. 

Summary: 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. -- Crown

According to the New York Times, NUTCRACKER by E.T.A. Hoffman and pictures by Maurice Sendak
is one of the ten best illustrated children's books of the year. I can certainly see why. This illustrated version of the classic tale is stunning and deserves a prominent place on coffee tables during the holiday season.

Like many of you, I was familiar with the story of the Nutcracker from seeing the ballet version. However, until I read the Introduction of this book (written by Maurice Sendak), I didn't realize that E.T.A. Hoffmann's 1918 short story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, which was the basis for the ballet, differed drastically from the story that was eventually told on stage. I actually found the Sendak's Introduction to be incredibly interesting, and I appreciated reading his thoughts about the Nutcracker. Furthermore, I enjoyed seeing how he worked with the Pacific Northwest Ballet to do a more current (and true) rendition of the story in 1981.

Another thing I found intriguing about the original Nutcracker story is that there are quite a few parts of the story that didn't make it into the ballet. I guess you can't have a five hour production! It's nice to know that they are included in this book, and that Mr. Sendak chose to fully illustrate these scenes in addition to the more familiar ones.

And that brings me to what I loved the most about NUTCRACKER -- the incredible illustrations drawn by Mr. Sendak. He is just a spectacular artist and I became quickly caught up in his interpretations of the characters and places. They were definitely my favorite parts of the book.

It's not that I didn't enjoy the rest of the story in NUTCRACKER, but I would be remiss is I didn't mention that the story of the Nutcracker is quite a long one. The entire book with illustrations is around 100 pages. For some reason, I expected it to be much shorter and more like a children's picture book. At times, NUTCRACKER felt dated to me and I found myself losing interest, but I'm not exactly the biggest fan of fantasy. I actually think that the book isn't "kid-friendly." Family-friendly, maybe? But it's not a story that either one of my kids would chose to read on their own.

Overall, I do think NUTCRACKER is a terrific addition to your holiday-themed books. You'd be hard pressed to find a more beautifully illustrated story. 

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.

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, please leave a comment as well as a link below with your name/blog name and the title of the book! Feel free to grab the little button too!


rhapsodyinbooks said...

That's interesting because I *loved* the story and didn't find it dated at all! Well, unless you think about the idea of kids playing with anything non-electronic!!!

Laura at Library of Clean Reads said...

I get what you mean by classic stories that are long. Sometimes my kids won't be attracted to read them too. But they have seen the ballet production and loved it!

Beth F said...

I loved the story and the illustrations. I would have loved the book as a child, especially because I took ballet for years.

bermudaonion said...

I liked The Nutcracker okay but wondered how kids would feel about it. Has Booking Daughter read it?