A sprightly introduction to the classic Christmas ballet.
The backmatter notes that “[The Nutcracker] is often the first ballet children attend,” and Messier and Grimard’s collaboration does an exceptional job of distilling the ballet’s story into spare, accessible text and engaging art that could prepare children for attending the ballet, let them relive the experience, or simply give them the delight of the story in book form. The child pictured dancing on the front cover isn’t one of the ballerinas in the performance but a girl attending the ballet with her father. They both appear Asian in the illustrations, and many other audience members also appear to be people of color. Unfortunately, in an otherwise outstanding package, a preponderance of the depicted dancers appears to be white, which seems like a missed opportunity for inclusive representation. The spare text makes no mention of race, instead delivering the story through a series of combinations of expertly chosen onomatopoeia and dialogue guiding readers from the anticipation of the ballet through its first act, intermission, the second act, the curtain call, and the child narrator’s closing, appreciative “Smooch!” of thanks to her dad.
Sure to elicit the storytime equivalent of “encore” at Christmastime and beyond. (Picture book. 2-8)