December 02, 2019

Nutcracker Night

Written by Mireille Messier
Illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard
Pajama Press
40 pp.
Ages 3-7
September 2019

At this time of year, many families will be planning their annual excursion to a performance of the Nutcracker, a ballet scored by Tchaikovsky. Whether your child is fortunate enough to attend or perhaps even perform in it or not, Mireille Messier and Gabrielle Grimard's Nutcracker Night will bring the magic of that performance to the page and hence to every young reader.
From Nutcracker Night by Mireille Messier, illus. by Gabrielle Grimard
A young girl delights in being taken to her first performance of the Nutcracker. From the Swoosh! of the cars and the Beep! Beep! of their taxi, their journey to the ballet begins with a subtle sensory burst. Her dress goes Swish! Swish!, her dad's shoes go Clip! Clop! Clip! Clop! and the two enter the  theatre, and get to their seats while the orchestra tunes up with a Pickle-dee! Zing! Boom! Ding!

Before the ballet has even started, the reader will recognize that Mireille Messier has made this event into an onomatopoeic exploration. The sounds of the audience and the orchestra are only the beginning because soon enough Marie (or Clara) is opening her nutcracker gift on stage and her brother Fritz is breaking it. When the clock strikes midnight with a Bong! or seven, Marie envisions the Christmas tree as colossal, and the mice and the soldiers begin their battle. After a welcome intermission, the Sugar Plum Fairy dances en pointe with a Takka-takka-takka, and the flamenco dancers and Mother Ginger and the polichinelles perform, before an ending that has the crowd applauding Bravo! Brava!
From Nutcracker Night by Mireille Messier, illus. by Gabrielle Grimard
Though the story of the Nutcracker, that of a young girl perhaps dreaming of a nutcracker come to life, is the basis for Mireille Messier's picture book, Nutcracker Night goes beyond a retelling of the ballet's premise. Instead it expands the many audible experiences of the performance and encompasses the whole experience from beginning to end of a special father-daughter occasion. There is the travel to the theatre, the audience's reactions and behaviour, an intermission of food, play and chatter, and an affectionate thank-you from a little girl to her father. And throughout, Mireille Messier invites a read-aloud with sound and expression.

Gabrielle Grimard's artwork, created with watercolour, gouache, oil, coloured pencil and digital media, evokes the magic and the affection of the experience for all participants. From the wide-eyed faces of the children to the action of the ballet, Gabrielle Grimard takes the reader into the theatre to watch, to hear and to appreciate the Christmas ballet.

Head to the ballet with Mireille Messier and Gabrielle Grimard's Nutcracker Night for a different kind of audiovisual experience and one that is perfect for the holidays. Like the nutcracker itself, Nutcracker Night opens up a tale for the season.
From Nutcracker Night by Mireille Messier, illus. by Gabrielle Grimard

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