This large-format retelling of the story from the popular holiday-season ballet focuses on the family party scene and the battle between the mice and the soldiers, with just a brief concluding visit to the Land of Sweets.
The story begins with a full page of text setting the scene for the party and the forthcoming conflict between Clara and her brother, “mischief-making Fritz.” The text in the rest of the book is set off in shorter text blocks on each page, at the top or bottom of full-page illustrations, sometimes obscuring part of the illustration in an intrusive way. The first 16 pages of the book focus on the party, with scenes of dancing, entertainment, and the children playing with their toys. The boys and girls in the party scenes look remarkably alike, almost all with dark hair and eyes, olive skin, and little variation in facial shape. This lack of differentiation among the child characters is also an issue with the boy who is freed from that Nutcracker enchantment, as he and Clara look like brother and sister. The illustration style is dark and surrealistic, with a shadowy, ominous atmosphere overall and a distinctly scary Godfather Drosselmeyer. The charms of the Land of Sweets are tasted only briefly in just one spread showing dancers from different countries.
A disappointing effort that fails to capture the magic inherent in the ballet. (bibliography) (Picture book. 5-8)