cover image The Nutcracker and the Mouse King

The Nutcracker and the Mouse King

E.T.A. Hoffmann, illus. by Natalie Andrewson. First Second, $18.99 (144p) ISBN 978-1-5964-3681-7

Andrewson renders an immersive re-imagining of the classic Christmas tale in 14 chapters. In Germany, Marie and Fritz Stahlbaum await Christmas Eve and their godfather Drosselmeier, a “mechanically minded” man who each year brings them handmade gifts. Discovering a nutcracker beneath the tree, Marie fervently guards it, first from battle-minded Fritz, then, in a series of nightmarish clashes, from a terrifying Mouse King who appears to Marie after midnight. Occasional captions guide readers through Marie’s experiences over several nights, while a secondary fairy tale arc—of the human Princess Pirlipat and revenge-obsessed mouse Lady Mouserinks—adds context to Marie’s story. In whimsical full-color art that employs thin lines and bright colors, Andrewson fills each page with measured revelations that mimic the ballet’s drama—the Christmas tree’s appearance, the clock striking midnight, the arrival of the mice and the many-headed Mouse King—while centering Marie’s bravery and grit. A captivating, otherworldly adaptation for old fans and new. Ages 6–10. (Sept.)