8 December, 2012 by Kevin Holtsberry
The Nutcracker – E. T. A. Hoffman, Lisbeth Zwerger (Illustrator)
My continuing obsession fascination with the illustrator Lisbeth Zwerger connected with my daughter’s interest in The Nutcracker and led to my doing something I hadn’t done before: buy one of her books new. I was tempted into buying this version of The Nutcracker which offers E.T.A. Hoffmann’s classic story retold by Susanne Koppe and illustrated by my girl Zwerger.
For nearly two hundred years, E.T.A. Hoffmann’s tale of the Nutcracker has enchanted readers, inspired artists and composers, and delighted audiences around the world. In cities and towns everywhere, children thrill to annual performances of Tchaikovsky’s classic Christmas ballet about a girl named Marie who helps a wooden nutcracker defeat an evil army of mice, and is rewarded by a visit to the magical dream world, the Land of Toys.
Lisbeth Zwerger’s stunning, all-new interpretation on The Nutcracker, adapted from the original Hoffmann tale, rounds out the story depicted in the ballet, exploring the background of the feud between the Nutcracker and the seven-headed Mouse King, the true role of the mysterious Drosselmeier, the tragic fate of Princess Pirlipat, the spell cast by Mistress Mousie that is finally broken by loyal Marie, and the satisfying, happily-ever-after conclusion to the great battle and fantastic journey. In pictures filled with wit and whimsy, drama, mystery, and magic, Lisbeth Zwerger transports us to the darkest reaches and brightest beauty of this fairy-tale world.
Like in previous volumes, Zwerger offers both full-page illustrations of key moments in the story and smaller details spread throughout the margins. And the illustrations are more evocative and thought-provoking than the captured scenes of more traditional illustrations. But I like that the art is inspired by the story not merely putting the prose into graphic representation. It leaves the reader to imagine more and to enjoy Zwerger’s art as art along with the story.
Despite this, I read the story to my kids (age 5 & 8) and that sat still long enough to listen to this shortened version. But really I bought this for myself; so I could enjoy the wonderful art as I read the story rather than to have the pictures entertain the children while I read the story.