Picks and Pans Review: Nutcracker

updated 12/10/1984 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/10/1984 AT 01:00 AM EST

by E.T.A. Hoffman; pictures by Maurice Sendak

Written in 1816, this Christmas tale is familiar to most of us because the Tchaikovsky ballet based on it turns up all over America around this time of year. Its popularity probably stems from the fact that it gives danceable roles to a large number of small children who have dutifully attended ballet classes all fall. Their parents and assorted relatives inevitably make an adoring audience. The story is a dream fantasy about toys under a Christmas tree that come to life and have to deal with mice and cats in adventures that are long on charm and short on sense. Sendak, the author and illustrator of such books as Where the Wild Things Are, created the sets and costumes for the Pacific Northwest Ballet's Christmas production in 1983 and that inspired this volume. The mice are magnificently bedecked, the sick child Marie visits lands of indescribable beauty, the giant Sweettooth gobbles up the Marzipan Castle. The drawings are lively, the colors muted but splendid. Put The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy on the stereo, open this book and settle in with the kids for an evening of unique enjoyment. (Crown, $19.95)

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