Paperscapes: The Nutcracker (Lauren Holowaty & Margarida Esteves)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Paperscapes: The Nutcracker, retold by Lauren Holowaty and illustrated by Margarida Esteves, an early-reader version of the classic Christmas tale with an interactive spin.

A new retelling of the beloved ballet adaptation, this edition follows the familiar tale of Clara and the Nutcracker, their journey to the Land of Sweets, and their battle against the Mouse King and his army. Part of the Paperscapes series, readers can even make the story come alive with pop-out paper dolls of some of the main characters.

Better in theory than in practice. The adaptation of the story itself isn’t a bad one; Holowaty does a commendable job of condensing the classic ballet down to a five-chapter early-reader book with engaging text. Esteves’s illustrations are colorful and graceful, and fit the tone well. However, what should be the main draw of the book – the pop-out paper dolls – are actually to its detriment. While the book does conveniently provide an envelope on the back cover to store the dolls, removing them from the book still leaves gaping holes in the pages that display the next or previous spread’s text, making rereading confusing for young bookworms. There is also the matter of representation: the majority of the characters present white, with the main exception being the performers of the “festival of dance” – characters in ethnically-inspired ballet outfits. Holowaty and Esteves do their best to handle this part of ballet delicately, but it still has the uncomfortable taste of appropriation. Otherwise, the length is fine for elementary readers, and JJ did enjoy the paper dolls for a bit. This would make a nice activity near Christmas – just don’t expect it to be a repeat tradition. Not our favorite version of this tale, but still worth a look for fans. Overall, Baby Bookworm approved.

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

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