Young Zombelina wins the part of Clara in The Nutcracker, but her Grandpa Phantom causes problems during a performance.
Zombelina is the only zombie girl in the cast of The Nutcracker. Her best friend, Lizzie, is cast in the chorus, but the girls support each other and remain friends. Zombelina’s grandfather haunts the theater, and during a performance he alters the lighting so the bones of all the dancers show through their costumes. It’s not clear what the exact paranormal effect is here—magical paralysis? Temporary electrocution? Only Grandpa Phantom knows for sure. Zombelina asks Lizzie to take over her part so the young zombie can deal with her grandfather backstage. The switch is effected by Zombelina’s actual removal of her legs, which she lends to Lizzie for the rest of the performance. Lizzie is supposed to tuck her legs up in her costume and dance on Zombelina’s legs, but the mechanics of this switch aren’t clear or believable. The performance ends with Zombelina back on stage with the cast for a standing ovation—and one of Zombelina’s legs on the loose. There are some funny zombie-themed jokes woven into the story, and Zombelina is an intriguing character, but there are too many leaps in logic in the plot. Colored-pencil illustrations give the green-faced Zombelina personality, and Idle does a fine job with the ballet positions and complex stage scenes.
Fans of both paranormal characters and ballet will like this; others should stick with a traditional interpretation of the holiday classic. (Picture book. 5-8)