The Nutcracker Mice, by Kristin Kladstrup

The Nutcracker Mice, by Kristin Kladstrup (Candlewick, MG, Oct2017), is  truly delightful reimagining of the Nutcracker Ballet, performed by the mice who have their own ballet company beneath the stage of Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg. The original ballet is about to have its first performance by the human dancers, and the Russian Mouse Ballet will be staging their own performance at the same time. The mouse ballet must succeed, or else the mouse company will be short of food (received from their audience) and they might have to close their curtains. But the plot of the Nutcracker is not a mouse friendly one, and more and more mice have chosen to watch the human dancers, with their elaborate costumes and scenery, instead of the bare-bones mouse performances.

Esmeralda is a rising mouse star...but can she successfully lead her company to a reworking of the Nutcracker that is both mouse-friendly plotwise, and that is also not a mere imitation of human dance but a reimagining of the art of ballet that celebrates all that is graceful about mice?  With the help of a human girl, who has shown she is a friend to mice, the answer is a resounding Yes!  

Here's what I especially liked:

--the human girl is the daughter of one of the theatres costume makers, and makes lovely (mouse-sized) dresses for her doll, which become mouse costumes  (I like descriptions of beautiful doll dresses made by talented kids) and the mice make miniature posters for their performance (I like miniatures).  

--I know the music of the Nutcracker by heart, and so I could play it in my head for the dancing bits, which made it extra nice for me

--I have mouse issues of my own, and it was a useful tip that mice are repulsed by peppermint oil.  I might well invest in some.

Here are some other good things:

--the prima donna ballerina mouse is mean to Esmeralda but instead of being humbled, comes all be herself to the realization that there are things Esmeralda can teach her about mouse ballet and is willing to learn from her.  And Esmeralda is willing to teach her with no hard feelings.

--Esmeralda is a pioneer of the unfettered tail approach to mouse ballet, which, though I'm not sure the author was deliberately trying to make the point or not, seems a very body positive message.

So all in all, a charming book I highly recommend to fans of people-like animals, ballet, and doll dresses!  I'm not intrinsically attracted to people-like animals, but these were lovely mice!

disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher

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