Ballet is beautiful for a mouse ballerina.
Irina, a white, Russian girl whose parents work backstage at the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, loves ballet. Esmeralda, a Russian mouse who lives in the Mariinsky, also loves ballet. It’s 1892, and The Nutcracker: A Ballet in Two Acts with music by Pyotr Ilich Tchaikovsky is set to premier. The mice also have a company, the Russian Mouse Ballet Company, and are planning their own production to the same music. But Esmeralda faces a terrible conflict. Can a mouse troupe dance to a scenario that features evil mice who are defeated in battle? Kladstrup has crafted a dual tale filled with charm, humor, conflict, and danger. The humans (most of them, at least) are out to exterminate the mice; Tchaikovsky is especially rodentophobic, while Irina is especially sympathetic and helpful. Esmeralda emerges as the perfect main character. She faces trials as a dancer—managing her tail properly is difficult. She displays courage and know-how in obtaining costumes from Irina’s doll, crafts an appropriate mouse version of the story, and best of all, she finds her dance muse in the gloriously enchanting score. The synopses for both ballets are included. Helquist’s full-page panels in shades of black are delightfully expressive and are filled with charming details.
Dance, drama, and a star turn make this a page-turning tale. (author’s note) (Animal fantasy. 9-12)