Review Blog

Dec 16 2016

The nutcracker by E.T.A. Hoffman

cover image

Ill. by Robert Ingpen. Walker Books, 2016. ISBN 9781922244550
(Age: all) Highly recommended. Christmas, Classic tale, The Nutcracker, Friendship. This wonderful edition of the well known story, the basis for Tchaikovsky's loved Christmas ballet, The Nutcracker, is given in its entirety, translated from Hoffman's original German story by Anthea Bell and given a brilliantly enticing new set of illustrations by the marvelous Robert Ingpen, to celebrate its bicentenary. Children and adults alike will thrill to the complete story offered here, set alongside seventy glorious illustrations, reminding them of Christmases long past, of half remembered stories of the nutcracker.
When her parents' good friend, Mr Drosselmeier gives Marie and her brother a nutcracker for Christmas, Marie loves the little figure. Her impatient brother throws it in the corner when one of his big teeth is cracked, but Marie cradles him and puts him in the special place with her other toys.
Unbeknownst to her, Mr Drosselmeier has given the figure to Marie for a reason, one he cannot tell anyone. He once built a mousetrap so well that all the mice in the town had been trapped and removed from the place. The mice then cursed his nephew and only he knows what can take away that curse.
When Marie is about to go to bed, mice invade the room with her toys, demanding she feed them or they will eat up her nutcracker. She complies but when she runs out of food, she turns to see the nutcracker and the other toys lined up to defeat the mice. She wakes the next morning, confused and upset to see that her nutcracker has gone. But Mr Drosselmeier returns that day with his nephew and Marie realises who he is and takes him as her friend.
This beautiful story of friendship is complemented with Ingpen's sumptuous illustrations, soft edged and glowingly detailed.
This is a beautiful story to read at Christmas, reminding children that love and friendship are precious and will outlive all the toys they are given. This edition includes a biography of Hoffman and celebrates his influence on fantasy writing, while the tale written in 1816, includes a story rarely seen, The story of the hard nut, which tells the reader how the nutcracker came to be.
This is a magical production and deserves to be shared.
Fran Knight

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