If you're looking for a beautiful volume of The Nutcracker
, this Eyewitness Classic is a fine choice. But be warned: it's not the simplified version of the Tchaikovsky ballet, but the tale of magical transformation as originally written by Ernst Hoffmann in 1816. This classic story is much more elaborate, including some delightful new adventures most of us are not familiar with.
Lushly illustrated in an old-fashioned style, this story is set in 19th-century Nuremberg, Germany, a town famous for its beautiful toys. It's Christmas Eve in the Stahlbaum family home, and Marie and her brother Fritz can barely contain their excitement. Their strange old godfather, Herr Drosselmeier, presents the family with the funny, wooden Nutcracker that Marie immediately falls in love with. After the Nutcracker breaks and Marie falls into a fitful sleep, she dreams of a fight between the Nutcracker and the Mouse King. When she awakes, she is not sure if her vision was a dream or real. But in this edition, the story does not end there. Herr Drosselmeier reappears to introduce more exciting, scary tales of kingdoms and princesses, and Marie is drawn deeper and deeper into a dreamlike world.
This richly annotated DK edition helps young readers understand some of the more esoteric details of this very old story. Historical facts and photographs help bring The Nutcracker to life, illuminating war-torn Prussia during the time of Napoleon. At the end of the book are fascinating facts about both the origin of The Nutcracker ballet and Hoffmann's life and times. This wonderful combination of history and fantasy makes this treasured holiday story genuinely magical. (Ages 9 to 12) --Marianne Painter