Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Nutcracker Tradition

Are tiny ballerinas pointing toes and pirouetting at your house? Let me guess. There is a performance of The Nutcracker on your holiday calendar. I found a book this week that makes a perfect introduction to the story before the curtain lifts on the scene of Clara’s home and the busy, laughing, swirling party goers. After the curtain falls on the final act, add this book to your children’s bedtime library. The music will swell once again, the flowers will waltz, and small eyelids will droop while visions of the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Prince take over their dreams.

THE NUTCRACKER by Alison Jay, Dial Books for Young Readers, 2010

Based on the story by E.T.A. Hoffman (retold by AnnMarie Anderson) and the Balanchine ballet, this classic tale comes to life in Alison Jay’s distinctive “crackle varnish” art. This technique is a perfect match for the Victorian setting and creates the look of an antique story book, the kind we love to discover deep in the shelves of a musty, mysterious bookshop.

Ask anyone who's seen one or twenty performances of this holiday delight, “What do you like best?” Answers tumble out: the dazzling Christmas tree that grows tall and taller and surely will touch the sky before it stops, the Land of the Sweets, the music that stays in your head long after the holidays end, the waltzing flowers, spinning snowflakes, bouncing acrobats, stowaway children under Mother Ginger’s skirts.

Who are their favorite characters? Again, every cast member has its fans My favorite is Fritz, the trouble maker who breaks the nutcracker in the opening scene. Without him, there would be no conflict, no story.

And that would be a shame.

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