Family outings: The Nutcracker

I never danced in The Nutcracker, but I love the music and I love this ballet.  My first memory if it is watching it on TV.  It was the night that Halley’s Comet passed overhead.  Unfortunately, we had a cloudy night and it was impossible to see the comet.  My parents found a performance of The Nutcracker on PBS and told me that if I was lucky, I might see the comet the next time around (in 2061).  Even without seeing the comet, I’ve had a few opportunities to see The Nutcracker live since then and enjoyed it every time.  Parents often ask us for books to introduce The Nutcracker before they take their children to a performance.  Here are a few suggestions:

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Bea in The Nutcracker by Rachel Isadora
Bea and her young classmates dress up in costumes and put on a performance of The Nutcracker.  This is one of Rachel Isadora’s picture books that showcases her background as a professional ballerina!

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Becoming a Ballerina: A Nutcracker Story by Lise Friedman; photographs by Mary Dowdle
Traces the daily experiences of a thirteen-year-old ballerina who is preparing to perform the lead role in the Boston Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker.

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Duke Ellington’s Nutcracker Suite by Anna Harwell Celenza; illustrated by Don Tate
Tells the story of how jazz composer and musician Duke Ellington, along with Billy Strayhorn, created his jazz composition based on Tchaikovsky’s famous Nutcracker Suite ballet.   This book comes with a recording of the suite on CD.

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The Nutcracker performed by the Bolshoi Ballet on DVD
If you want to bring home a recording of the ballet, this is a beautiful version.

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The Nutcracker by E.T.A. Hoffmann; pictures by Maurice Sendak; translated by Ralph Manheim
Maurice Sendak (who wrote and illustrated Where the Wild Things Are and who also designed sets for a performance of The Nutcracker) illustrates the story behind the ballet.

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The Nutcracker by Susan Jeffers
An abridged version of the story featuring beautiful paintings of ballet dancers.

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The Nutcracker retold by Stephanie Spinner; illustrated by Peter Malone
In this retelling of the original 1816 German story, Godfather Drosselmeier gives young Marie a nutcracker for Christmas, and she finds herself in a magical realm where she saves the nutcracker and sees him change into a handsome prince.  This picture book comes with a CD of the music from the ballet.

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The Nutcracker, music by Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky
This child-friendly adaptation of the complete ballet score is given a beautiful retelling of the story by Jim Weiss.  You can find many other CDs in our collection that feature music from The Nutcracker and storytelling by Jim Weiss.

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The Nutcracker Comes to America: How Three Ballet-loving Brothers Created a Holiday Tradition by Chris Barton; illustrated by Cathy Gendron
An illustrated account of how “The Nutcracker” ballet became an American tradition traces the efforts of three vaudeville siblings who staged their own production in the early 1900s after being introduced to the ballet by Russian immigrants.

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