Published September 26th 2017 by HarperCollins
Format read: Finished copy via publisher
In this original retelling, set in New York City during the height of the Harlem Renaissance, one little girl finds her voice as a musician thanks to her enchanting adventures with a magical toy.
This quintessential holiday tale is brought to vivid life by debut picture book author T. E. McMorrow and Coretta Scott King Award-winning illustrator James Ransome. An author’s note at the end provides additional information about the history of the Harlem Renaissance, and about the author’s inspiration for this musical retelling.
This year, HarperCollins sent me their holiday roundup - more to come on this, when we do our holiday gift round up! - and The Nutcracker in Harlem was one of the titles. It's a stunning retelling of The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, set in the Sugar Hill neighborhood of Harlem, during the Harlem renaissance.
Author T.E. McMorrow beautifully integrates real-life individuals Adelaide Hall and Cab Calloway into this retelling, as young protagonist Marie experiences the wonder and the magic of the Nutcracker and the Mouse King for herself.
The story follows the traditional plot of The Nutcracker and the Mouse King with McMorrow's smooth and effortless writing pulling readers through the book - the story occasionally jumps a bit, but it's consistent with the dream-like nature of the tale - and the setting, coupled with illustrator James Ransome's art, breathes new life into this story. I read every page thinking: "This book is why it's so important we have diverse books," and am confident that many a young reader will feel the same.
I was a little reluctant to close The Nutcracker in Harlem, because McMorrow has so beautifully captured the optimism and wonder of the season, and I wanted to dwell in that world a little longer. But I know that this is going to be one of my go-to titles as a gift in December, and I'm confident others will want to spread the magic of this tale too.
Highly, highly recommend this beautiful book, full stop.
About the author and illustrator:
T. E. McMorrow belongs to the third generation of writers in his family. A journalist and playwright, he is also a member of the Drama Desk in New York City. Many years ago, he worked as a stagehand for the Dance Theatre of Harlem, an experience that helped plant the first seeds of inspiration for The Nutcracker in Harlem. Mr. McMorrow splits his time between Manhattan and the East End of Long Island with his wife, Carole, and their two cats, Cinnamon and Moxie.
James Ransome has illustrated more than fifty books for children, including Uncle Jed’s Barbershop, a Coretta Scott King Honor Book; This Is the Dream; My Name Is Truth: The Life of Sojourner Truth; and When Grandmama Sings. His highly acclaimed illustrations for Let My People Go: Bible Stories Told by a Freeman of Color won the NAACP Image Award. He teaches illustration at Syracuse University. Visit him online at www.jamesransome.com.