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*Mia's Nutcracker Ballet* by Robin Farley, illustrated by Olga and Aleksey Ivanov
Also by Robin Farley:

Mia: The Easter Egg Chase

Mia: The Sweet Valentine

Mia: Time to Trick or Treat!

Mia's Nutcracker Ballet
by Robin Farley, illustrated by Olga and Aleksey Ivanov
Ages 4-8 32 pages HarperCollins September 2013 Hardcover    

Mia the kitten is an aspiring ballerina. For Christmas, her Grandpa gives her a very special present—a bright red box holding a wooden nutcracker. The toy looks like a man in a soldier’s suit, and Mia can make his mouth open and close by moving the back of his coat. Mia’s big sister Ava, an experienced ballerina, is delighted to see Mia’s present, but Mia herself is surprised by this strange toy.

As her Grandpa tells her the story of The Nutcracker Ballet, Mia closes her eyes and imagines herself dancing in the ballet. Now she is Clara, a young girl who has been given a nutcracker for Christmas by her godfather. When her brother Fritz breaks the toy, Clara is heartbroken.

She slips out of bed in the night to check on her broken nutcracker, and is surprised to find that the living room is now a magical place. The Nutcracker is now life-sized and battling an army of large mice by their now-enormous Christmas tree. When it appears that the Nutcracker is about to be defeated by the mice, Clara distracts the Mouse King by throwing a ballet slipper at him, turning the tide of battle and enabling the Nutcracker to win.

Clara’s actions cause the Nutcracker to turn into a handsome prince who takes her on a ride to the Land of Snow, where they watch dancing snowflakes, and then to his own kingdom, the Land of Sweets. Here the Sugar Plum Fairy and an array of exotic sweets welcome Clara and the Nutcracker Prince with a very special ballet.

There are numerous picture books based on The Nutcracker Ballet, each with a different focus and flavor. I found Mia's Nutcracker Ballet to be perfectly suited to toddlers who are just being introduced to the story with its simple plot line and condensed format. The battle scenes likewise are not likely to scare even very young children, and the Mouse King in this version simply runs away instead of being killed. The illustrations by classically-trained ballet dancers Olga and Aleksey Ivanov are bright, cheerful and packed with interesting visual detail.


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  Usha Rao/2013 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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