cover image The Night Before the Nutcracker

The Night Before the Nutcracker

John Robert Allman, illus. by Julianna Swaney. Doubleday, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-593-18091-4

In this performance-based picture book published in partnership with the American Ballet Theatre, Allman views the Christmas ballet classic through the lens of the young ballet students dancing it. Embracing gentle parody (“ ’Twas the night before The Nutcracker and, sleepless in their beds,/ these budding ballet dancers are rehearsing in their heads”), the rhyming lines revisit the kids’ process—including auditions, costume fittings, and dress rehearsals—“till the burst of joy and jitters/ when a stagehand hollers ‘Places!’ ” During the Nutcracker recounting that follows, Swaney shows the troupe of dancers, portrayed in a range of skin tones and with doll-like features, as a tapestry of costumes and gestures. Interest peaks as backstage scenes show stagehands sweeping the snow away and Mother Ginger, standing on stilts, hiding children beneath voluminous skirts. It’s a double bill, introducing both the traditional story and the experiences of its child dancers. Costume illustrations from a 2010 performance conclude. Ages 3–7. (Sept.)