Ballet Book Club: Nutcracker Edition

It’s all things Nutcracker for the next two months, so for November’s Ballet Book Club, we’ve found seven books that help us celebrate! Familiarizing yourself and your family with the story will enhance everyone’s experience AND build excitement and anticipation for the performance. There are many versions of the Nutcracker fairytale, but here are a few of our favs, for adults and kiddos alike!

The Nutcracker and the Mouse King by E. T. A. Hoffmann’s 

It wasn’t until the 1950s that seeing The Nutcracker during the holidays became an American tradition. But the story itself is much older and its original intent more complex. This eye-opening new volume presents two of the tale’s earliest versions, both in new translations: E.T.A. Hoffmann’s Nutcracker and Mouse King (1816), in which a young girl is whisked away to the Land of Toys to help her animated nutcracker defeat the Mouse King, and Alexandre Dumas’s 1845 adaptation, The Tale of the Nutcracker, based on Hoffmann’s popular work.

Charlotte and the Nutcracker: The True Story of a Girl Who Made Ballet History by Charlotte Nebres  (Author), Alea Marley (Illustrator)

The tales of Nutcracker have been told time and time again, and now, releasing on December 21, 2021, we hear a story from a new point of view. A reimagined and modern take on the holiday favorite, this picture book weaves together the classic Christmas tale of The Nutcracker and the true-life story of 12-year-old ballerina Charlotte Nebres, the first Black girl to play Marie in the New York City Ballet’s production. Charlotte provides youngsters with a multicultural tale of family, dance, and holiday cheer.

A Very Young Dancer by Jill Krementz

Recommended by our very own Academy associate director of the upper school, Katie Hanlon Mayo! This book, from 1976, is about a ten-year-old student at the School of American Ballet in New York who describes her classes and the preparation for and performance of her role in the ballet “The Nutcracker.” It even features some familiar faces (hint hint, Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux and Patricia McBride!)

Hiddensee: A Tale of the Once and Future Nutcracker by Gregory Maguire

This novel goes beyond the traditional tale and gives a twist to the backstory of Drosselmeier. The author of the beloved New York Times bestseller Wicked returns with an inventive novel inspired by a timeless holiday legend, intertwining the story of the famous Nutcracker with the life of the mysterious toy maker named Drosselmeier who carves him. Hiddensee imagines the backstory of the Nutcracker, revealing how this entrancing creature came to be carved and how he guided an ailing girl named Klara through a dreamy paradise on a Christmas Eve.

The Nutcracker by The New York City Ballet and Valeria Docampo

The New York City Ballet presents a classic ballet tale for a modern ballet lover with George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, a holiday favorite. The New York City Ballet is known for showcasing classic stories of the ballet with their trademark stylish and modern sensibility. For the first time, this beloved holiday story is told based on George Balanchine’s quintessential production. The storyline of this gorgeous picture book mimics the choreography of the famous ballet and the illustrations are inspired by the backdrops and scenery from the actual production.

The Nutcracker Ballet: A Book, Theater, and Paper Doll Fold-out Play Set by Mara Conlon (Author), Jo Gershman (Illustrator)

Here’s a great one for your kiddos to learn AND explore their crativity! The classic story of The Nutcracker comes to life with this book, theater, and paper doll playset. Read along in the 32-page storybook as your paper doll characters (more than 40 of them!) dance their way through three different foldout stages!

The Nutcracker by Susan Jeffers

The New York Times bestselling artist and Caldecott Honor winner Susan Jeffers has created a Nutcracker as only she can—with lavish illustrations, magnificent detail, a glitter-brushed cover, and enchanting holiday scenes on every page. This is The Nutcracker as you’ve never seen it before! Makes a lovely keepsake and gift.

Or – Make the most of family time in the car and try an audio version! Many audiobooks are accessible through the CHARLOTTE MECKLENBURG LIBRARY or can be purchased and downloaded on AUDIBLE.COM. Several incorporate excerpts of Tchaikovsky’s music, while others offer more of an “in a nutshell” take. We hope you enjoy our Ballet Book Club reads for the month! Leave us suggestions on any other Nutcracker book you enjoy on social media!