The Nutcracker Ballet by Vladimir Vagin is today's offering for Nutcracker Week. Vagin's illustrations for the story remind me of Jan Brett's work, with the intricate details and I also detect a bit of the influence of Ivan Bilibin among others, understandable with Vagin's Russian heritage. (He also illustrated Jane Yolen's The Flying Witch, a Baba Yaga story, and The Firebird.)
It's Christmas Eve in 19th century Europe. And on this magical evening, young Clara's eccentric godfather has given her a beautiful wooden nutcracker. As midnight strikes, Clara's wooden toy transforms into a handsome prince, and Christmas quickly becomes even more enchanting. The prince takes Clara on a romantic overnight adventure into a dream world of delicacies called the Land of Sweets.Clara's adventure ends as she wakes up snuggly tucked in her bed. As she embraces her nutcracker, she realizes that the best part of Christmas...is the magic it brings.
A review from Booklist:
Vagin's intricate period watercolors, not the straightforward telling, will pull readers into this story. Clara and the other children dress in formal nineteenth-century clothing and are lovely; Herr Drosselmeier dons a black cape and an eye patch and is just strange enough to be effective; the Nutcracker stands tall, proud, and well polished (so does the prince); the Mouse King and his soldiers are dark and nasty; and the inhabitants of the Land of the Sweets have a fantastical, dramatic quality about them. The paintings are rich and dense, and Vagin's ability to capture the flavor of the different cultures reflected in the various dances lends credibility and appeal to his version of the story. Children will pore over the details in the Christmas tree decorations, costumes, architecture, and landscapes and always discover something new. --Kathy Broderick