BOOK REVIEW: The Nutcracker by Margrete Lamond, illustrated by Ritva Voutila
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell
There once was a man called Mr Drosselmeier. He was famous for making toys that moved their arms and marched in circles, and for making clocks that ticked and chimed. But most of all he was most famous for a mouse trap he once invented, many years before. It was a complicated mouse trap – something like a trick and a spring and a catch and a box and a device, all rolled into one – and it worked so well that nearly all the mice in town were trapped by it, and taken away to who-knows-where, never to come back.
With all that fame, and so many clocks and toys, Mr Drosselmeier should have been happy. But he wasn’t. Beneath his strange glass wig, and behind the patch he wore over his right eye, there was sadness and sorriness like a deep dark well of cold water, and though he tried to keep his sadness locked up in his soul, people would sometimes see it glistening in his eye.
The thing is, after the trapped mice had been taken away, something dreadful happened, and it was all Mr Drosselmeier’s fault. At least, that’s what he believed. What happened was this: the last few surviving mice were so annoyed with Mr Drosselmeier that they attacked him where it would wound him most deeply. That is, they laid a curse on Mr Dosselmeier’s beloved little nephew. They made the boy so grotesque and ugly that no one but Mr Drosselmeier could ever love him, and so Mr Drosselmeier his him away from the world.
Thus begins Margrete Lamond’s retelling of the classic The Nutcracker.
Within these pages you will find adventure and imagination, as well as the underlying messages that you should treat your toys with care, and that who someone is as a person is far more important than what they look like.
But, speaking of looks… this book is simply gorgeous. So gorgeous, in fact, that this reviewer will be actively seeking out anything illustrated by Ritva Voutila from this point forward. Voutila manages to show a range of emotion and action within these fourteen images, and puts them together so very well that, even without the narrative on the opposite pages, the reader is given a lot of information about what is going on. Offering up a story that is visually stunning while at the same time an incredibly enjoyable retelling of a classic.
My only complaint is that it ended to soon, and the last few pages of narrative could have used a little more direction.
While there are mentions of Christmas, and presents, and festive gatherings, the real story here is one of friendship and being kind. It doesn’t need to be Christmas to pass on those messages. So, while this is a great gift for Christmas, and is a definite favourite for this reviewer, it is a book that can, and should be read throughout the year.
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