cover image The Nutcracker

The Nutcracker

Grace Maccarone, illus. by Célia Chauffrey. Little Bee, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-4998-0281-8

Maccarone (Princess Tales) and French illustrator Chauffrey present an odd adaptation of Hoffman’s 1816 story, which spawned the famous Tchaikovsky ballet some 80 years later. Nutcrackers are often an eerie bunch, but Chauffrey’s version can be especially creepy: during the party in which the wooden soldier debuts, his long, corkscrewing tongue flicks a nut into Godfather Drosselmeyer’s waiting mouth. And although Maccarone describes the Nutcracker, somewhat unpleasantly, as “expos[ing] its teeth like a smiling chimp,” it’s Chauffrey’s almost-identical-looking human characters that are the most simian in appearance. Maccarone’s writing is at times clunky (“Only Clara could see beyond the useful function and homely face to a soul that was good and kind”), keeping readers at arms’ length, and the dream segments of the story get short shrift, which may disappoint fans of the ballet’s spirited dance sequences. Ages 4–8. (Sept.)