________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 5 . . . . October 28, 2005


The Nutcracker.

Karen Kain. Illustrated by Rajka Kupesic.
Toronto, ON: Tundra Books, 2005.
32 pp., cloth, $24.99.
ISBN 0-88776-696-X.

Subject Heading:
Nutcracker (Choreographic work)-Juvenile literature.

Kindergarten and up / Ages 5 and up.

Review by Valerie Nielsen.

**** /4

Taking children to a production of The Nutcracker at Christmas time has become a tradition in many Canadian families living in our larger cities. Karen Kain's version of the well-loved story is based on artistic director James Kudelka's National Ballet production of The Nutcracker and is dedicated, as might be expected, to the dancers of the National Ballet of Canada as well as to the students, staff and musicians of the National Ballet School. It is to Karen Kain's credit that, after a long and distinguished career as a ballerina, as well as receiving honorary degrees and a Companion of the Order of Canada, she continues to be an active promoter of the arts, serving as the Chair of the Canada Council for the Arts.

     Most adults, though they would be able to recognize, if not hum, the score of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite, would have a hard time recounting its story. Karen Kain, has done a fine retelling of the tale which follows the sequence of the ballet production and manages to stitch together the pieces into the whole cloth of a dream.

     Her story-telling style is simple yet elegant, with plenty of conversation and just the right amount of description to accompany artist Rajka's Kupesic's magnificent oil paintings.

Snowflakes skittered across a frozen lake and icy branches creaked as they moved in the frosty night. A light shimmered, and soft as moonlight, the Snow Queen appeared.

"Welcome to my realm," she said, and dipped in a graceful curtsy. "I'm sending you on a journey." "Where are we going?" asked Misha.

"To a place you never dreamed of."

internal art

     There can be no doubt that the beauty of this stunning picture book is due to Rajka Kupesic's sumptuous illustrations.  Kupesic began her career as a professional ballerina, performing extensively throughout Europe and her native Croatia. Today, she is both a painter and a dance instructor, maintaining her passion for the two art forms. In The Nutcracker, she has given her remarkable ability for handling detail, colour and mood full rein. Each illustration depicting the real and dream landscapes of nineteenth century Russia is lovingly rendered in brilliant oil paintings.

     Adults who intend to take children to The Nutcracker will find that sharing this beautiful picture book will enhance their anticipation and appreciation of the special event. For those who have already seen the ballet, the book will serve to evoke memories of that occasion. How fortunate for young readers and ballet watchers that this new presentation of the magical story will be available in time for the holiday season.

     Elementary librarians should find the book a worthwhile addition to their picture book collections of holiday resources and of folk tales.

Highly Recommended.

A retired teacher-librarian, Valerie Nielsen lives in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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ISSN 1201-9364
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