Parades of graceful dancers in and between intricately cut pop-up scenes decorate a slimmed-down version of the ever popular Christmas ballet.
The narrative being just a standard-issue plot summary with the violence toned down, it’s Patel’s illustrations that will furnish the draw. These alternate pages of text decorated with a corps of tiny costumed figures (all light-skinned and blue-haired) in balletic poses amid swirls or piles of toys with four folded pop-ups that, when propped open with thumb or fingers on the creases, stand up to reveal ornate, egg-shaped, cutout silhouettes of the presentation of the Nutcracker to Clara, the Mouse King’s attack, the Sugar Plum Fairy’s castle, and Clara’s return. Though hardly less delicate than spider webs, the pop-ups are so technically accomplished and unusual in design that they’re wasted on this pedestrian rendition of the story. The text relies on a surfeit of exclamation points to convey excitement and clumsily disguises ethnic stereotypes. An “Arabian folk dancer” has her face “partly covered to reveal only a pair of mysterious hazel eyes”; “male acrobats with pointy straw hats” pour tea while swinging on trapezes.
A pretty showcase for the artist but, considering the plethora of other renditions available, unsuited as preparation for attending a performance, a self-contained tale, or even, without some finagling, exhibition. (Pop-up picture book. 6-8)