Book Review - A Nutty Nutcracker Christmas

Authors: Ralph Covert, G. Riley Mills
Illustrator: Wilson Swain
Reading Level: 3rd to 5th grade
Publisher: Chronicle Books (October 21, 2009)
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Description from GoodReads:
This is no ordinary Nutcracker! This time, it's Fritz's story. The traditional Nutcracker tale gets turned on its head in this rollicking Christmas adventure, based on the hit musical A Nutty Nutcracker Christmas by the popular family music rock star Ralph Covert and playwright G. Riley Mills. Includes a bonus CD of songs from the musical, featuring a read-aloud track with the music and story woven together.

This holiday classic receives a modern redux with a change of point of view and rather than a ballet children are drawn into a video game.  First, I will say up front that I have never been a huge fan of the original version which I saw performed on stage before reading it.  Second, I have not seen the musical version that the book is based on.  I am purely reviewing the book version.  

Overall, I very much enjoyed this book version of the Nutcracker.  Instead of being from Clara's point of view, it is told from Fritz's POV.  The book begins with Fritz breaking Clara's nutcracker and being required to stay at home with an elderly neighbor while his family goes out to see the Nutcracker performed.  Fritz also lost the privilege of playing his video game Mouse Hunter 5000.  When the neighbor answers the phone, Fritz sneaks a chance to play his game.  Surprisingly the Mouse King from the game has come alive.  Fritz is then joined by a real live Nutcracker (a girl) and together they go after the Mouse King to save the day.  Of course, a similar twist occurs at the end, where Fritz awakes and wonders if it was all a dream. He then meets the neighbor's niece Marie who looks surprisingly like the Nutcracker.  

I am not sure what it says about me that it is easier for me to accept falling into a video game vs. having a regular dream (and no I did not grow up with video games) but the book really does have a feel of children trapped into the Mouse Hunter 5000 game.  It is humorous and charming in it's own way.  The illustrations are bright, busy, and have a magical quality to them.  The over-sized heads and eyes of the characters provide a cartoon-like feel to the images.  

If you are a Nutcracker purist, this might not be for you.  However, if you like a little twist to your classics, then I would suggest giving a Nutty Nutcracker Christmas a chance.  It is a nice addition to any collection, and may appeal a little more to boys than the original.  My students enjoyed this alternate version and I hope yours do as well.

Note:  The book is accompanied by a CD which includes 5 songs from the play and a read-aloud track with a musical background.