Vulpes Libris

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.

Nut Cracker by Jan Pienkowski and David Walser

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.ppicture

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.

5 comments on “Nut Cracker by Jan Pienkowski and David Walser

  1. Jackie
    December 18, 2009

    Thanks for including so many of the illustrations from the book. How does he get all that detail using only silhouettes? That’s amazing! I especially like the middle one with the webbed wings & owl clock. What a unique style & intricate working of the ideas.
    Pienkowski is quite remarkable in how they retell these stories & what a perfect author to showcase at this time of year.

  2. RosyB
    December 18, 2009

    Lovely Christmassy fare.

  3. Pingback: From us to you … « Vulpes Libris

  4. lespetiteschosesdulis
    March 22, 2010

    I adore Jan Pienkowski, I didn;t realise how much, until I started blogging, and it seemed his *stuff* popped-up every month or so… Rob Ryan does some really nice similar stuff, paper-art silhouettes too

  5. Pingback: The Thousand Nights and One Night by Jan Pienkowski and David Walser « Vulpes Libris

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This entry was posted on December 18, 2009 by in Entries by Moira, Fiction: children's and tagged , , , , , , .



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  • (The header image is from Aesop's Fables, illustrated by Francis Barlow (1666), and appears courtesy of the Digital and Multimedia Center at the Michigan State University Libraries.)
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