A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
Last year at Christmas, I wrote a review of Jan Pienkowski’s simply beautiful version of the Christmas story – The First Christmas – and I make no apologies at all for returning to Pienkowski once again this year. Those who are already familiar with his work won’t need convincing of his talent, but Nut Cracker is something special – and I mean really special. It boasts just 24 pages with a surprise at the end, but from the front cover to the final glorious illustration the whole book quite literally sparkles like a jewel box.
David Walser’s retelling of E T A Hoffman’s familiar story of Dr Drosselmeier, Clara and the Nut Cracker is simple and elegant. The fireworks are left to Pienkowski’s artwork. Minutely detailed, in his trademark glowing colours, they’re illustrations with style, humour and more than a little edge.
The hydra-like, seven-headed Mouse King is a terrorist sporting an intimidating camouflage print – all teeth and attitude; even in silhouette, Drosselmeier has ‘wild-eyed eccentric’ written all over him, and everywhere - but everywhere - the pictures, the page borders, even the cover itself – is infested with those wretched mice.
Embellished with gold, silver and even glitter Nut Cracker could have been completely over the top, but it isn’t. It’s just magical – a perfect Christmas present not just for the young, but also for the young at heart, the incurable romantics and anyone who agrees with Emerson that beauty is its own excuse for being.
And that surprise at the end? You’ll have to come back on Sunday to see it, but you can be quite sure that they all lived …
… happily ever after!
(Well, except the Mouse King, of course .)
Puffin Books. 2008. ISBN: 978-0-141-38454-2. 24PP.