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Woodland Nutcracker    by Avril Tyrrell & Frances Tyrrell order for
Woodland Nutcracker
by Avril Tyrrell
Order:  USA  Can
Key Porter, 2006 (2006)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Avril Tyrrell retells the familliar Nutcracker in an ursine cottage context, made magical by Frances Tyrrell's superb illustrations, whose borders reflect the surrounding woodland and the creatures that inhabit it.

It begins, 'Long ago, away from highawys and city lights, where bright stars touched the tree tops and forest roots touched the edges of frozen lakes, a woodland family welcomed relatives and friends to a Christmas Eve party in their cosy island home.' Grandpa brings a 'handsome carved Nutcracker Bear' as a gift and mends its leg after the cubs damage it.

Clara is wakeful and slips downstairs during the night to find the living room invaded by field-mice, the tin soldiers ready to take them on. After Clara declares a Christmas Eve truce, the Nutcracker comes alive and escorts her by balloon to be 'the guest of honour at the palace of the great bear, Ursa Major.'

They journey into the Milky Way and arrive at a glittering palace, where Clara, the Peacemaker is honoured with a variety of entertainment, including a ribbon dance, hockey playing cubs, and koala trapeze artists. And when the magical evening is over, a present for Clara's brother Peter reminds them both that it was real.

Woodland Nutcracker is a delightful - and very Canadian in its details - retelling of E.T.A. Hoffmann's classic tale. This new version is itself a classic in the making - to be enjoyed again and again, year after year.

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