Sunday, November 25, 2012

"Nutcracker" by E.T.A. Hoffmann, Illustrated by Maurice Sendak and Translated by Ralph Manheim

ISBN: 978-0-385-34864-5
$24.99 Hardcover
Press Release:  For many of us, Maurice Sendak illustrated our childhoods. We grew up with the Caldecott Medal-winning book Where the Wild Things Are. Director Spike Jonze may have captured what made Sendak's work so powerful when he described making his film adaptation of the book and explained, "The main goal wasn't to make a children's movie. I wanted to make a movie about childhood."  Through the mystical and outlandish, the foreign and bizarre, Sendak took us to worlds far from our own to illuminate a reality of childhood beyond what Disney could allow. It is only fitting that Sendak, internationally renowned for his darkly tinged, numinous storytelling that places him in the tradition of the Brothers Grimm, should return us to E.T.A. Hoffmann's classic The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, upon which so many iterations have been based. Called "a classic, new and complete" by the New York Times Book Review, Sendak's NUTCRACKER (Crown; October 30, 2012) brings to life E.T.A. Hoffmann's mysterious world with his extraordinary illustrations, and this stunning reissue will be published just in time for the holidays.

Since its premiere in 1954, The Nutcracker has been performed by the New York City Ballet over 2,000 times, carrying children and adults alike into the dreamlike realm of a story that has fascinated and inspired artists, composers, and audiences for almost two hundred years. But the Nutcracker ballet many of us are familiar with is far from the story E.T.A. Hoffmann imagined.  When Sendak agreed to design sets and costumes for the Pacific Northwest Ballet's Christmas production of the tale, he made it his mission to restore the "weird, dark qualities that [made the original] something of a master piece." As he did in his designs for the ballet, many which appear as illustrations in this book, Sendak brilliantly renders the wondrous world of the true Nutcracker, restoring to E.T.A. Hoffmann's originall all of its magnificent richness and perculiarities.

Reissued at a time when Sendak's legions of fans worldwide are honoring his legacy, this lush and beautifully illustrated edition serves as a wonderful tribute to Sendak's life just before the 50th anniversary of Where the Wild Things Are  next year, and his timeless, haunting, and wildly imaginative art illuminates Hoffmann's story in this tantalizing treasure. (Crown News, The Crown Publishing Group, New York, New York)

My thoughts: As a young child, I danced ballet and throughout my life I have enjoyed the beauty, precision, and strength represented by the performances. The music of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker has always enchanted me. To see E.T.A. Hoffmann's NUTCRACKER performed so graciously would be a real treat.

The collaboration of Maurice Sendak as artistic designer with the Pacific Northwest Ballet for E.T.A. Hoffmann's NUTCRACKER brought the story to a new level of intensity revealing the darker side of the story and "characters." The book I am reviewing is a reissue of the story as translated from the German by Ralph Manheim with the illustrations of Maurice Sendak as developed in 1984.

This is a large chapter book (nearly 100 pages) which would be a delight to read to children bit by bit.  They will look forward with excitement to the next reading "to see what happens next." The distinctive illustrations will capture their attention as Mr. Sendak's illustrations have in many other books. The book contains the entire text of "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King"  as written by E.T.A. Hoffmann in 1816 and is beautifully translated into English for the enjoyment of children (of all ages). It is timeless, indeed!

I see this as a book families will treasure and pull out yearly to read with Tchaikovsky's music playing in the background.  Then they will pass it along to their children's families.

DISCLOSURE: I was provided a complimentary, review copy of  NUTCRACKER by Crown Publishing of Random House, Inc. to facilitate an honest review. Opinions expressed are solely my own. I received no compensation to review this book.

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