Picture Books Inspired by The Nutcracker Ballet

Since its inception in 1892, The Nutcracker ballet has grown to become one of the most popular ballet productions in the world. Its marvelous score, composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, is synonymous with the Christmas season.

Today I am pleased to share 12 picture books inspired by The Nutcracker ballet. Whether you’re a longtime fan of The Nutcracker or you’re about to experience it for the first time, these beautiful Nutcracker picture books deserve a spot on your list this holiday season.

The Nutcracker (©2016) by New York City Ballet and Valeria Docampo

Fans of The Nutcracker ballet will adore this beautifully illustrated retelling, which mimics the story and choreography of George Balanchine’s quintessential production for the New York City Ballet. This is the perfect book to share with any child before their first viewing of The Nutcracker.

The Nutcracker in Harlem (©2017) by T.E. McMorrow and James Ransome

This captivating picture book is a jazz-inspired reimagining of The Nutcracker set in 1920s New York City. An author’s note provides more information on the Harlem Renaissance and how it inspired this lovely retelling.

The Nutcracker Comes to America: How Three Ballet-Loving Brothers Created a Holiday Tradition (©2015) by Chris Barton and Cathy Gendron

This biographical picture book tells the story of William, Harold, and Lew Christensen, three brothers from a small town in Utah who were responsible for bringing The Nutcracker ballet to audiences in the United States in the early 20th century.

The Nutcracker (©2007) by Susan Jeffers

This skillful retelling of the story of The Nutcracker has only a few lines of text per page, making it an excellent read-aloud for children of all ages. The beautifully detailed illustrations have an antique quality that evokes the era in which the story is set.

Waltz of the Snowflakes (©2017) by Elly Mackay

Fans of wordless picture books will love this beautifully illustrated tale about a little girl who reluctantly joins her grandmother for an evening at the ballet, only to be captivated by the magic of The Nutcracker.

Nutcracker Night (©2019) by Mireille Messier and Gabrielle Grimard

Chitter! Chatter! goes the crowd. Voof! go the velvet curtains. Preschool-aged children will enjoy this onomatopoeic depiction of a little girl’s experience seeing The Nutcracker ballet.

The Story Orchestra: The Nutcracker (©2017) illustrated by Jessica Courtney-Tickle

Every page of this charming retelling has a button that plays an excerpt from the ballet’s magnificent score, including “The Waltz of the Flowers,” “The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy,” “The Russian Dance,” and seven others. This one is my personal favorite of all the Nutcracker picture books on this list.

Tallulah’s Nutcracker (©2013) by Marilyn Singer and Alexandra Boiger

When Tallulah gets a part in a professional production of The Nutcracker ballet, she couldn’t be more excited. Even though she’s only a mouse, Tallulah is determined to be the best mouse of them all. When a mishap on stage leads to disaster, Tallulah questions if she has what it takes to become a real dancer. This uplifting holiday story is a must-read for young ballerinas.

Ella Bella Ballerina and The Nutcracker (©2012) by James Mayhew

In this enchanting story, a young ballerina is magically transported into the world of The Nutcracker ballet. Once there, she and Clara must defeat the evil mouse king and rescue the nutcracker prince.

Nutcracker (©1984) by E.T.A. Hoffman and Maurice Sendak

This full-length translation of Hoffman’s classic story, The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, (which was written over 200 years ago!) is perfect for families who want to read one chapter each night leading up to Christmas. For me, Sendak’s art is synonymous with The Nutcracker ballet. He designed the costumes and sets for the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s production of the show, which ran in Seattle from 1983 through 2014. (Beginning in 2015, PNB gave their Nutcracker a new look with set design by another famous children’s author, Ian Falconer.)

The Nutcracker Doll (©2007) by Mary Newell DePalma

The story is inspired by the author’s daughter, who performed in eight professional productions of The Nutcracker. Readers are invited to follow along as a young dancer prepares for her first performance in The Nutcracker ballet, from auditions to rehearsals and costume fittings, all the way to opening night. The illustrations are a bit bland, but the story will ring true for many young ballerinas.

The Nutcracker: A BabyLit Dancing Primer (©2017) by Jennifer Adams and Alison Oliver

This delightful board book introduces basic movement terms, with colorful illustrations that show children dancing, mice prancing, toy soldiers marching, Russian dancers leaping, and more! The sparse, simple text is perfect for babies and toddlers.

How many of these Nutcracker picture books have you read? Before you go, be sure to check out the rest of my Christmas book lists!




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