Nut Cracker by David Walser and Jan Pienkowski

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Nut Cracker by David Walser and Jan Pienkowski
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Genre: Confident Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A sumptuous retelling of the Nutcracker story with exquisite art work. Some is a little delicate but the book will delight any young girl. Recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 26 Date: October 2008
Publisher: Puffin Books
ISBN: 978-0141384542

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Last year I fell in love with The Thousand Nights and One Night from the inimitable combination of story teller David Walser and artist Jan Pienkowski. There was a wonderful depth of storytelling accompanied by silhouette illustrations which were works of art in themselves. This year Walser and Pienkowski have presented us with The Nutcracker – another book which looks destined to become an heirloom but this time there's much less text and more emphasis on the artwork.

The story is almost secondary to the book itself. There are only thirteen pages of text, telling a child-friendly version of the story by E T A Hoffman which in turn inspired the ballet by Tchaikovsky. There's a prince transformed by an evil spell, a Mouse King and his army and a happy ending. It's not the most straight-forward tale but Walser does a commendable job with what is in effect a traditional love story.

It's the book itself though that will delight a child – most probably a girl, although boys might get more enjoyment out of the battle scenes. The cover is textured, almost like a very fine sparkling emery paper and has gold foil edging. There's even a heart-shaped cut-out to reveal the lovers. Inside, to illustrate the story, there are five full page illustrations with white paper silhouettes on a sparkling, textured background. These are reasonably robust and well-mounted, but the detail is still impressive with more to see each time you look.

The piece de resistance though is at the back of the book. Layer upon layer of laser-cut paper has been used to create a stunning picture, with the fairy-tale castle, trees, icicles and the lovers in a horse-drawn sleigh. It's elegant with the white paper on a dark blue background and it's completely captivating. The construction is as substantial as possible, but by its very nature cut paper is fragile and the temptation for small fingers might prove irresistible. Well, let's be honest – it was well-nigh irresistible for an adult. I doubt that it would stand a lot of inquisitive handling.

It's a beautiful book and I know a couple of young girls who will be getting a copy this Christmas. I know they'll enjoy it.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If art work of this standard appeals to you then you should look at The Thousand Nights and One Night which also has a good selection of fairy stories. For fairy stories with a modern twist we can cautiously recommend The Winter Sleepwalker by Joan Aiken.

Booklists.jpg Nut Cracker by David Walser and Jan Pienkowski is in the Top Ten Retellings of Myths, Legends and Fairy Tales.
Buy Nut Cracker by David Walser and Jan Pienkowski at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Nut Cracker by David Walser and Jan Pienkowski at Amazon.


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