cover image The Nutcracker in Harlem

The Nutcracker in Harlem

T.E. McMorrow, illus. by James Ransome. Harper, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-06-117598-5

First-time author McMorrow sets this romantic reimagining of Hoffmann’s holiday ballet in 1920s Harlem, streamlining the plot while tapping into the cultural, musical, and social resonance of the Harlem Renaissance. Looking on warily as her parents host the revelers, an African-American girl named Marie is reluctant to join in the singing or dancing, despite the reassurance of a woman named Miss Addie (inspired by singer Adelaide Hall). “Music lives inside everyone,” she tells Marie. “You just have to let it out.” This proves true when Marie falls asleep and helps her nutcracker (a gift from her Cab Calloway–inspired Uncle Cab) defeat an invading mouse army with the “dum-diddy-dum” of a drum she plays. Filled with motion, emotion, and period detail, Ransome’s vivid watercolors celebrate the magic of both the fairy-tale world Marie dreams herself into and the vibrant real-life community that is eager to help her find her voice. Ages 4–8. (Sept.)