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The best reason to buy a book version of The Nutcracker is that you’re taking your small ones to the ballet and hope some familiarity with the story will cut down on the whispers of “What’s going on?” and “When will it be over?” John Cech’s new version fails on that count. It retells not the classic ballet story but the original fairy tale upon which it was based, placing heroine, godfather, and mice battles into a tamer modern setting. It spends less time with the various fairies and instead relates the story of how the Nutcracker, once a prince, was betrayed by Princess Pirlipat and cursed to live out his life in this changed form.
A true fan of The Nutcracker or a young fairy tale aficionado might enjoy this new take on the story and appreciate the explanation of how the prince turned into a Nutcracker in the first place. But for most ballet-bound readers, there are better versions out there. (And if you’re reading aloud, you should note that this isn’t short, although it does separate easily into three chapters.)