By Anna Harwell Celenza
Charlesbridge Press, 32 pages, $19.95
Many children are familiar with Tchaikovsky’s music from the famous Nutcracker Suite. The holiday favorite stars Clara, the Sugar Plum Fairy, the brave Nutcracker King, and other fantastic characters. What would the story look like if jazz legend Duke Ellington had the chance to tinker with the ballet score? Is it possible for a romantic orchestral composition to transform into a cool-cat jazz number? Author Anna Harwell Celenza, in her book Duke Ellington’s Nutcracker Suite tells the true story of how Duke and his friend Billy Strayhorn remade the classic into a jazz extravaganza. When asked to create something new, Duke wanted to challenge himself to make something that couldn’t be categorized. The Sugar Plum Fairy became the sultry Sugar Rum Cherry, the Dance of the Reed Pipes became Toot Toot Tootie Toot and the Waltz of the Flowers became the Dance of the Floreadores. Don Tate’s vibrant illustrations dance across the pages. The beautiful artwork is done in India ink, acrylic watercolor and chalk. This book helps instill in your child a love of music and an appreciation for the arts and introduces the younger members of your family to jazz and one of its greatest artists. Enjoy the included CD recording of the Ellington/Strayhorn composition.
Reviewed by Kathryn Franklin