Cracking The Nutcracker: What We’re Reading Before We Watch

Confession: I’ve never been to a performance of The Nutcracker! Since Preschool Bookworm is such a fan of the orchestra, I thought we’d give The Nutcracker ballet a shot this year. We’ve been listening to Tchaikovsky’s music, and it’s become familiar enough that PB now has favorite songs from the ballet that he requests! When it came to introducing the plot to him, I have to admit, I was pretty confused.  Tchaikovsky’s score to a ballet based on a German story by E.T.A. Hoffman, by way of a French version of the story by Alexander Dumas, with countless interpretations! And so, so many hits in our library’s catalog! The editions below are my recommendations for various attention spans and interest levels:

The Basic: The Nutcracker-– Picture book, short text based on the ballet, beautiful (full page, every page) pictures by Susan Jeffers. (A version we read with Preschool Bookworm.)

Or, The Nutcracker Ballet by Vladimir Vagin. (We also read this version with Preschool Bookworm.)

A Step Up: The Nutcracker-– Picture book, long text, scattered full page/vignette pictures by  Janet Schulman/Renee Graef.

Advanced: Nutcracker— The original story, translated from the German, with pictures by Maurice Sendak (yes, the Wild Things‘ Sendak), 100 pages long. (The introduction alone was incredibly interesting to ME. I didn’t attempt this with the kids. In Sendak’s words, he describes his wrestling with the various texts, scores, and interpretations as he produced the sets and costumes for the Pacific Northwest Ballet.)

Bonus: A little history– The Nutcracker Comes to America: How Three Ballet-Loving Brothers Created a Holiday Tradition by Chris Barton. Picture book biography/history.

Incidentally, there’s a Little Einsteins’ episode Preschool Bookworm enjoyed, too, “The Wind-Up Toy Prince” (season 2, episode 20, and it’s on Netflix.) It doesn’t follow the plot exactly but exposes little ones to the music and some ballet terms and the instruments in the suite.

Do you have a favorite way of enjoying The Nutcracker with your little ones? I’d love to hear! Connect on the Facebook page or in the comments below.

Update: A Year Later- we are enjoying Susan Jeffers’ picture book (above), and we’ve added to the collection:

Tallulah’s Nutcracker, a story about a girl who gets a part in a nutcracker play and despite her practicing and dedication, has an unfortunate collision during the show, causing her to learn the qualities of a true performer. It’s a sweet story and my boys love it; I like the “growth mindset” twist.

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