Monday, October 16, 2017

The Nutcracker Mice by Kristin Kladstrup, 2017

Click to view
on Goodreads 
Hidden in Saint Petersburg's famed Mariinsky Theater are the world's tiniest ballet fans: the Mariinsky mice, including Esmeralda, a rising dancer in the Russian Mouse Ballet Company. Despite being unable to control her tail, Esmeralda has just been assigned the lead role of Clara in a ballet debuting at Christmas: The Nutcracker. But when she learns that the new ballet features mice as villains, her excitement turns to horror: the mice of Saint Petersburg will never come to see such a production. Meanwhile, nine-year-old Irina is convinced that the mice she's seen in the Mariinsky -- the mice her father, the custodian, is supposed to exterminate -- are not only fans of the ballet, but dancers themselves. No one will believe her, so it falls to Irina to help save the mice everyone else considers vermin . . . and perhaps to help Esmeralda ensure the future of the mouse company. Sweet and inventive, Kristin Kladstrup's ballet fantasy features artwork by beloved illustrator Brett Helquist, old-fashioned drama, and just a touch of holiday magic.
(336 pages)

This is the sort of cozy book I would have devoured as a little girl. There's something so appealing about a story set in a far-off country (in this case Russia) during a far-away time (1892) that features anthropomorphic creatures (ballet-dancing talking mice!). Add all the dancing and ballet details to that, plus the one human girl who suspects the truth about the mice, and it's even more absorbing. In addition to all that, the scenario of mice preparing to perform The Nutcracker during its first human performance adds a delicious familiarity and Christmas feeling to the story because I attended performances of The Nutcracker almost every year when I was small.

Thus, before I even try to analyze The Nutcracker Mice objectively, I have to just say that I fell in love with the simple magic the story offers. After so many YA novels and adult nonfiction books, I needed to reading something so simple and pure as The Nutcracker Mice. It felt like a breath of fresh air.

Now, as for the story itself. First you have to get past the implausibility of the idea that mice are not only intelligent, human-like creatures who put on elaborate productions using the music played during the human performances, but also that all the theater mice are trained to read and understand both Russian and French. For some, I suppose that could be a pretty big hurdle; as for me, I counted it as part of the story's charm. I thought it was interesting that Esmerelda is an adult in the story because normally children's books feature protagonists who are in middle school. It made the (pretty slight) romance much stronger, in my opinion, and also made Esmerelda's adventures much more above-board and legit–she wasn't lying to any parents or sneaking out after hours, for example. It was also a little disconcerting, though, because I kept forgetting she was older until random moments when something would remind me.

I also really liked the bits of the story about Irina, the girl who spots Esmerelda practicing her ballet moves one day. She's written very realistically, and the drama surrounding her father's job is very well done.

Honestly, I have a hard time being very objective about The Nutcracker Mouse. It may not be perfect, or unpredictable, but it's a good solid book that I enjoyed and that I know for a fact I would have been completely in love with even a few years ago. If you know a kid with a fanciful imagination, then The Nutcracker Mouse would be a wonderful present for them–especially now while we're close to Christmas time!

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

1 comment:

  1. This sounds sooo cute! Who doesn't love anthropomorphic mice? I hadn't heard of this before, but now I'm intrigued!

    -Krysta @ Pages Unbound


Join the conversation!