cover image BARBIE IN 


, , adapted by Linda Engelsiepen and Hilary Hinkle, illus. by Robert Sauber. . Pleasant, $12.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-1-58485-386-2

Let's just say that liberties have been taken with this retelling. Barbie stars as Clara, of course—dolled up in pink flounces and lace, and coifed within an inch of her blonde Malibu life. Hoffman's holiday tale is almost unrecognizable, with Clara/Barbie and the Nutcracker setting off on a quest to reverse a shrinking spell cast by the Mouse King. Along the way they meet such creatures as Major Mint, Colonel Candy and Marzipan (a purple horse with Barbie-like tresses). When Clara/Barbie's new friends are kidnapped by the Mouse King, she rescues them in one anticlimactic sentence ("When Clara reached the castle, she sneaked inside and saved her friends"). The chirpy text depends as heavily on exclamation marks to generate excitement as Sauber's overwrought illustrations do on shades of pink and purple. Given the merchandising power behind the star, this saccharine performance may be the only exposure many children will have to a tale whose timeless magic deserves better. Ages 4-up. (Sept.)