Monday, August 31, 2020

Book Review: The Nutcracker and the Mouse King: The Graphic Novel by E.T.A. Hoffmann, retold and illustrated by Natalie Andrewson

In this fantastical graphic novel, Natalie Andrewson goes back to the original story of The Nutcracker, as told by E.T.A. Hoffmann, which is considerably different from the ballet, so be prepared. 

Marie (Not Clara), loves the nutcracker that family friend, Uncle Drosselmeyer makes for her and her brother, even after it gets broken. She goes downstairs at night to the locked shelves where it's put away to check on it, and finds the mouse king threatening it. If only Marie will give the mouse king her sweets, and her dolls, and this goes on for a few nights. Finally, as we know, the nutcracker does defeat the mouse king, but only with Marie's help and her sacrifices. Then she is ill and Drosselmeyer tells her and her brother the story, over several days, of how the nutcracker came to be (he was once a real boy). At the end, you decide what is real and what is imaginary.

I loved hearing the real story. It's true that the entire second half of the story I was familiar with is different, as there's no Snow Queen or Sugar Plum Fairy, but I did like it better. There's no real story in the second half of the ballet--just prettiness as Clara and the nutcracker passively watch all the treats. Here, there's plenty of story! I love that the pallet and style isn't overly "girly" so there's a chance boys too will pick this up, as it does have toy soldiers and the battles with the mice and everything. (I know, I hate the gendering of books like this. It's more the extreme gendering of ballet--which is impossible to escape--that makes this story feel more gendered than most.) I wish I'd known this version of the story, growing up!

This book is published by First Second, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

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