The Nutcracker: Books For Kids

"The Nutcracker and the Mouse King" by E. T. A. Hoffmann was written over 200 years ago in 1816. As many stories do, (especially ones of this age!) this one too has evolved into a most famous ballet known simply as, "The Nutcracker." Perhaps, it is more particularly liked and adored because of a score written by the well-known composer, Tchaikovsky. Circling back to its beginnings, we are finding many children's books about "The Nutcracker" story that have been illustrated with the original text by Hoffman and even many more that have been re-written or summarized.

In this list you will find our favorite renditions of the beloved, classic tale of "The Nutcracker." We have board books for little fans, ages 0-2, many picture books for those 3-6, (and all ages!) as well as some cleverly written chapter books for our middle school age friends.

I want to give particular mention to the beautiful illustrations in the books in this list. While the story remains mostly unchanged throughout the selection, the illustrations vary widely from pop-up features, to watercolor paints, and pencil sketches. We hope you will find your new favorite among the many books to choose from below.

Nutcracker book
Written by E.T.A. Hoffmann and illustrated by Maurice Sendak
picture book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

“A classic, new and complete. One of the ten best illustrated children’s books of the year.” — New York Times Book Review The tale of Nutcracker, written by E.T.A. Hoffmann in 1816, has fascinated and inspired artists, composers, and audiences for almost two hundred years. It has retained its freshness because it appeals to the sense of wonder we all share.

Maurice Sendak designed brilliant sets and costumes for the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Christmas production of Nutcracker and created even more magnificent pictures especially for this book. He joined with the eminent translator Ralph Manheim to produce this illustrated edition of Hoffmann’s wonderful tale, destined to become a classic for all ages.

The world of Nutcracker is a world of pleasures. Maurice Sendak’s art illuminates the delights of Hoffmann’s story in this rich and tantalizing treasure.

First Stories: Nutcracker book
First Stories: Nutcracker
Written by and illustrated by Dan Taylor
board book
Recommend Ages: 0-2

Push, pull, and slide into the holiday magic of The Nutcracker! Bring the classic Nutcracker story to life by pulling the tabs, spinning the wheels, and sliding the characters in First Stories: The Nutcracker. Join Clara and the Nutcracker as they go on a magical journey in this beloved tale based on the beautiful ballet. With movements on every page, youngsters will love this engaging introduction to the holiday classic.

The Nutcracker: A BabyLit Dancing Primer book
The Nutcracker: A BabyLit Dancing Primer
Written by Jennifer Adams and illustrated by Alison Oliver
board book
Recommend Ages: 0-3

BabyLit(R) is a fashionable way to introduce your baby to the world of classic literature With this colorfully illustrated board book version of the classic Christmas-time ballet, Jennifer Adams and Alison Oliver present a new holiday favorite, The Nutcracker: A BabyLit(R) Dancing Primer. This board book features soldiers marching, mice prancing, snowflakes swirling, dolls bending, and buffoons skipping as a way to introduce basic movement terms to babies and toddlers. Jennifer Adams is the author of many books including Remarkably Jane: Notable Quotations on Jane Austen and the popular Edgar the Raven series. Jennifer works as a writer and editor in Salt Lake City, Utah. Alison Oliver runs Sugar design studio. Her design portfolio includes everything from logos to packaging and product design for clients such as Chronicle Books, Citibabes, and Aerie. She lives in New York.

The Nutcracker : A Pop-Up Book for Christmas book
The Nutcracker : A Pop-Up Book for Christmas
Written by Nick Denchfield and illustrated by Sue Scullard
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7

Explore the world of the Nutcracker through five spectacular pop-up scenes full of lift-the-flap surprises.

Children can open the pop-up presents, watch the midnight battle between the mice and the toy soldiers (with the tallest pop-up Christmas tree youve ever seen) then join Clara on her sleigh ride to the Land of Sweets. Sue Scullards astonishingly detailed illustration, combined with Nick Denchfield`s miraculous pop-up scenes, make this the most magical NUTCRACKER ever.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms: The Dance of the Realms book
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms: The Dance of the Realms
Written by Calliope Glass and illustrated by Misty Copeland and Marco Bucci
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-5

With breathtaking painterly illustrations, a deeply enchanting story, and a foreword written by celebrated dancer Misty Copeland, this picture book brings The Nutcracker and the Four Realms to life in a brand-new way. As the adventure from the film jumps off of the screen and onto the page, a new generation of readers and fans will be drawn in and enchanted by the holiday spirit, the beauty of dance, and the magic of storytelling.

  1. Peep Inside A Fairy Tale The Nutcracker - The Goodfather - This is a really delightful board book version of The Nutcracker. It summarizes the holiday classic to a length that will entertain but not bore young audiences. The details of the book, including the print design with delightful snowflakes punched in some pages, are really well done.

  2. The Berenstain Bears and the Nutcracker - Mom of Boys - I always loved the Berenstain Bear books as a child. They always taught a cute lesson and this one about the Nutcracker does as well. The bears get bored with their new Christmas toys and are sent to use their imaginations. Playing together with a special Nutcracker toy that Santa brought them to share, they pretend they are in the Nutcracker story.

  3. Mary Engelbreit's Nutcracker - The Goodfather - This is a memorable, classic version of the Nutcracker. The illustrations are colorful and dreamy and include lots of holiday details that make the book very festive and bright.

  4. Daniel and the Nutcracker (Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood) - The Goodfather - This story is a lot more about Daniel Tiger and his friends with only a very brief mention of the storyline of The Nutcracker at the very end. If you want a holiday themed Daniel Tiger story, this is a good option, but if you want a children’s version of The Nutcracker, there are better options.

The Nutcracker: The Original Holiday Classic book
The Nutcracker: The Original Holiday Classic
Written by E.T.A. Hoffman and illustrated by Arkady Roytman
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-12

Publishing just in time for the forthcoming 2018 film adaptation, this edition of The Nutcracker is sure to enchant readers young and old. On Christmas Eve, seven-year-old Marie and her eight-year-old brother Fritz anxiously await their Christmas gifts. When their godfather—a clock builder and toymaker—arrives, he unveils an ornate clockwork castle adorned with whirling figurines for the children. While Fritz plays with the clock, Marie is taken aside and given another gift—a nutcracker. After Fritz grabs the nutcracker from Marie and breaks its jaw by cracking too many nuts, their playtime ends and they head off to bed. When the clock strikes twelve, magic makes its way into this enduring tale and an epic battle ensues. This timeless classic, featuring all-new full-color and black-and-white illustrations by artist Arkady Roytman and abridged text by Gina Gold, is the perfect story to get anyone in the holiday spirit!

The Nutcracker Ballet book
The Nutcracker Ballet
Written by Deborah Hautzig and illustrated by Carolyn Ewing
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-8

A Step 3 early reader retelling of the classic story of the Christmas ballet, The Nutcracker. From the opening Christmas Eve party scene to the closing scene in which Marie and her Nutcracker prince bid farewell to the Land of the Sweets, young readers will be enchanted while enjoying a successful reading experience. Step 3 Readers feature engaging characters in easy-to-follow plots about popular topics—for children who are ready to read on their own.

The Nutcracker Ballet book
The Nutcracker Ballet
Written and illustrated by Vladimir Vagin
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

This beautifully illustrated adaptation of the Nutcracker delivers timeless magic and wonder right to your fingertips. A paperback edition offers front-row tickets to this beloved holiday tradition. It’s Christmas Eve in 19th century Europe. And on this magical evening, young Clara’s eccentric godfather has given her a beautiful wooden nutcracker. As midnight strikes, Clara’s wooden toy transforms into a handsome prince, and Christmas quickly becomes even more enchanting. The prince takes Clara on a romantic overnight adventure into a dream world of delicacies called the Land of Sweets. Clara’s adventure ends as she wakes up snuggly tucked in her bed. As she embraces her nutcracker, she realizes that the best part of Christmas…is the magic it brings.

The Nutcracker book
The Nutcracker
Written by E.T.A. Hoffman and illustrated by Don Daily
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Adults as well as children look forward to attending an annual performance of The Nutcracker. To sweeten the anticipation and prolong the joy — or just to establish a lovely tradition—settle in with this charming retelling of a young girl’s dreamy visit to the Land of the Sugarplum Fairy. The story is enhanced with magnificent color illustrations created especially for this edition by the late award-winning artist Don Daily. This high-quality, handsomely produced volume is destined for the permanent home library.

Disney The Nutcracker and the Four Realms: A Center Stage Pop-Up Book book
Disney The Nutcracker and the Four Realms: A Center Stage Pop-Up Book
Written and illustrated by Courtney Acampora
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-8

The Ballerina of the Realms dances on every page of this magical book! From Disney’s all-new live action film The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, follow the elegant Ballerina of the Realms as she dances center stage in this artistic pop-up book, celebrating each of the unique and picturesque Four Realms. This beautiful format is a perfect holiday gift for fans of this classic tale, full of colorful characters and no shortage of surprises.

  1. The Nutcracker (Musical Books) - Push, pull, and slide into the holiday magic of The Nutcracker! Bring the classic Nutcracker story to life by pulling the tabs, spinning the wheels, and sliding the characters in First Stories: The Nutcracker. Join Clara and the Nutcracker as they go on a magical journey in this beloved tale based on the beautiful ballet. With movements on every page, youngsters will love this engaging introduction to the holiday classic.

  2. The Nutcracker of Nuremberg - Based on the classic Christmas story by E. T. A. Hoffmann, The Nutcracker of Nuremberg is the magical adventure of Marie Stahlbaum’s favourite toy, the Nutcracker, who battles the nefarious Mouse King in battle and takes the reader on a wonderful adventure, into a magical land of dolls. Dumas’s version was adapted by the Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky into the famous ballet The Nutcracker. Contents include: Part I: The Story of the Nutcracker of Nuremberg, Part II: The Story of the Nut Krakatuk and the Princess Pirlipate, and Part III: The Story of Marie and the King of the Toys. This wonderful story is accompanied by the beautiful silhouettes cut by Else Hasselriis. Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870) was a famous French writer. He is best remembered for his exciting romantic sagas, including The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo. Despite making a great deal of money from his writing, Dumas was almost perpetually penniless thanks to his extravagant lifestyle. His novels have since been translated into nearly a hundred different languages, and have inspired over two hundred motion pictures. Pook Press celebrates the great ‘Golden Age of Illustration’ in children’s classics and fairy tales- a period of unparalleled excellence in book illustration. We publish rare and vintage Golden Age illustrated books, in high-quality editions, so that the masterful artwork and story-telling can continue to delight both young and old.

  3. The Nutcracker - Experience the magic of Tchaikovsky’s classic tale with this lavishly illustrated keepsake book. The Nutcracker is a magical story beloved by generations of children. Follow along as enchanted toys spring to life, dancers glide and twirl, and a little girl learns that kindness is the greatest gift of all. This familiar and charming tale combines with Natasha Kuricheva’s lavishly painted illustrations to create a keepsake book for the whole family to enjoy.

  4. Nutcracked - Christmastime, ballet, and magic! An original take on The Nutcracker ballet! Georgie has waited for this moment her whole life—to dance the part of Clara in The Nutcracker ballet. And when she finally gets the part, it’s like a dream come true. . . . Literally. Every time Georgie dances with the Nutcracker doll, she leaves the ballet studio and enters a world where everything around her—the old wooden furniture, the Christmas tree, the carefully wrapped presents—is larger than life. It’s so magical, Georgie can’t wait to return again and again. Then the Nutcracker’s magic seeps into the real world, putting Georgie’s friend in danger. Everything is falling apart, and it’s almost Christmas! Can Georgie save her friend, the Nutcracker, and most of all, herself?

The Nutcracker and the Mouse King book
The Nutcracker and the Mouse King
Written by E.T.A. Hoffman and illustrated by Robert Ingpen
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Marie kept gazing at the dear little man, whom she had loved at first sight, and she saw what a kind face he had. His pale-green, slightly protuberant eyes expressed nothing but friendliness and goodwill. And the neat white cotton-wool beard on his chin suited the little man very well, setting off the sweet smile of his bright-red mouth. The Nutcracker and the Mouse King is well-loved by many as the inspiration for Tchaikovsky’s famous ballet, performed as a Christmas spectacle the world over. The ballet was based on a French retelling of the story, and Hoffmann’s German original is rarely translated in its entirety. In addition to telling the familiar tale of the gentle young girl and her love for the enchanted Nutcracker, who leads the toy soldiers in a battle against the wicked Mouse King and whisks her away to the Land of Toys, the original text also includes the story of the cursed Princess Pirlipat and the hard nut, which explains the background of how the poor Nutcracker came to be. This sumptuous volume, published to celebrate the bicentenary of the tale’s first publication, brings together the complete, unabridged German classic in a new translation by the eminent translator Anthea Bell, with more than 70 breathtaking illustrations by the award-winning artist Robert Ingpen.

The Nutcracker book
The Nutcracker
Written by E.T.A. Hoffman and Janet Schulman and illustrated by Renee Graef
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Each December, generations of children delight in the ballet version of the quintessential Christmas story The Nutcracker. But few have had the opportunity to revel in the richly detailed original tale. Now, in this glorious new edition, acclaimed children’s book author and editor Janet Schulman returns to the source’E.T.A. Hoffmann’s “The Nutcracker and the King of Mice.” Here we meet Marie, her Nutcracker, the Sugar Plum Fairy, and all the other delightful characters, and we discover the answers to questions left unanswered by the ballet, like why the Nutcracker and the King of Mice were enemies.

The Nutcracker Comes to America: How Three Ballet-Loving Brothers Created a Holiday Tradition book
The Nutcracker Comes to America: How Three Ballet-Loving Brothers Created a Holiday Tradition
Written by Chris Barton and illustrated by Cathy Gendron
picture book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Every December, The Nutcracker comes to life in theaters all across the United States. But how did this 19th-century Russian ballet become such a big part of the holidays in 21st-century America? Meet Willam, Harold, and Lew Christensen, three small-town Utah boys who caught the ballet bug in the early 1900s. They performed on vaudeville and took part in the New York City dance scene. Russian immigrants shared the story of The Nutcracker with them, and during World War II, they staged their own Christmastime production in San Francisco. It was America’s first full-length version and the beginning of a delightful holiday tradition.

The Nutcracker's Night Before Christmas book
The Nutcracker's Night Before Christmas
Written by Keith Brockett and illustrated by Joseph Cowman
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-8

In The Nutcracker’s Night Before Christmas preparations for a doomed stage production of the classic ballet goes from terribly bad to ridiculously worse. Sick stagehands, renegade cats, and crashing Christmas trees have everyone sure that the show won’t go on. But it’s Christmas Eve and help is on the way! Told in verse with wonderful whimsical illustrations, this story hits all the right notes for holiday reading.

The Nutcracker: The Original 1853 Edition With Illustrations book
The Nutcracker: The Original 1853 Edition With Illustrations
Written by E.T.A. Hoffman and illustrated by St. Simon
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 10-12

Sometimes you just want to have the original. This is one of the earliest known English translation of E.T.A. Hoffmann’s classic children’s tale, “Nutcracker and Mouse-King,’ which was penned in German in 1816. While Alexandre Dumas, père was making this story famous in France, this translation by Mrs. St. Simon was making it popular in the English-speaking world. The stage was set for Tchaikovsky to bring the story into the 20th century in his famous ballet. This edition carefully re-constructs the text of the 1853 edition, and also includes the original woodcut illustrations that accompanied it. At Christmas, you want to read aloud to your children the same stories that delighted countless other children over the decades and centuries over the holidays. If that is what you’re looking for, this edition is for you. Or, if you just trying to fathom what on earth Tchaikovsky is portraying in his ballet, reading an early English translation that aimed to be faithful to the original is a great start.

  1. The Nutcracker - Hoffmann’s classic Christmas fairy tale, immortalized by Tchaikovsky’s ballet, is brought to life by the gorgeous contemporary artwork of Finnish illustrator Sanna Annukka, and is the perfect holiday gift for adults and children alike. The Nutcracker captures, better than any other story, a child’s wonder at Christmas. On Christmas Eve, Fritz and Marie excitedly await the arrival of Godfather Drosselmeier and the marvelous gifts he brings for them every year. When Marie discovers a rather curious nutcracker doll amongst the presents, she suddenly finds herself caught up in an age-old battle and ultimately transported to a magical world of sugar-frosted castles, chocolate kings, and true love. This cloth-bound edition combines the charm of Hoffmann’s original eighteenth-century tale with the freshness of Sanna Annukka’s gorgeous illustrations in this striking keepsake edition that will be treasured and reread by you and your loved ones for years to come.

  2. The Nutcracker - On Christmas Eve, Marie Stahlbaum huddles in the dark with her brother, Fritz, waiting for the Christ Child to come. When their parents open the doors to the parlor, the scene that awaits them is mesmerizing: a Christmas tree aglow with candles and more toys than they could have imagined. Godfather Drosselmeir has made them a fine castle with dancing ladies and leaping men, a clever toy fox, and battalions of soldiers. But Marie falls in love when she finds the one last gift tucked under the tree - the Nutcracker

  3. The Nutcracker - Christmas just isn’t Christmas without The Nutcracker! This beautiful book, which includes a fully orchestrated CD of the score, invites children to dance, prance, and relive the ballet long after the tree comes down. Peter Malone’s exquisite illustrations capture all the magic of The Nutcracker’s most memorable scenes: the Christmas Eve party, Godfather Drosselmeyer’s spellbinding visit, and the ferocious battle between the Mouse King and the Nutcracker. Marie’s journey to the Land of Sweets, where the Sugar Plum Fairy welcomes her with exuberant dancers from around the globe—and toothsome desserts—springs to life as never before. Stephanie Spinner’s lyrical text, Peter Malone’s jewel-like artwork, and a sparkling performance of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s unforgettable music make this a gift to inspire even the very youngest dancer.

  4. The Nutcracker - The New York City Ballet presents a classic ballet tale for a modern ballet lover with George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, a holiday favorite. The New York City Ballet is known for showcasing classic stories of the ballet with their trademark stylish and modern sensibility. For the first time, this beloved holiday story is told based on George Balanchine’s quintessential production. The storyline of this gorgeous picture book mimics the choreography of the famous ballet and the illustrations are inspired by the backdrops and scenery from the actual production. The New York City Ballet’s production of the Nutcracker is considered to be “the” leading production in the world. A holiday tradition for many families, now readers who can’t travel to New York will be able to experience this colorful celebratory story. A must-have for every aspiring ballerina’s library and a holiday tradition for every family’s bookshelf.

The Nutcracker book
The Nutcracker
Written and illustrated by Susan Jeffers
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

New York Times bestselling artist and Caldecott Honor winner Susan Jeffers has created a Nutcracker as only she can—with lavish illustrations, magnificent detail, a glitter-brushed cover, and enchanting holiday scenes on every page. This is The Nutcracker as you’ve never seen it before! Makes a lovely keepsake and gift. Join Marie, Fritz, and the intriguing Nutcracker himself on a magical Christmas Eve adventure. Behold the frightful Mouse King, the elegant Sugar Plum fairies, and the entire Land of Sweets in this dazzling, gorgeously illustrated holiday classic. With spare text based on the story in the ballet, this book offers a front-row seat to the enthralling tale that is a perennial favorite of adults and children alike. And for Susan Jeffers fans looking for extra content, an author’s note is included at the end of the book, in which she explains what inspired her to turn this holiday tradition into a show-stopping picture book.

The Nutcracker (Little People Shape Books) book
The Nutcracker (Little People Shape Books)
Written by Barron's Editorial Staff and illustrated by Laura Rigo and Roberta Pagnoni
board book
Recommend Ages: 1-3

Barron’s Little People Shape Books feature simply told stories that are perfect for beginning readers, or for reading aloud to preschoolers. Cut into the shapes of their main characters, these rugged and appealing board books are sure to delight little readers. In Nutcracker, children discover the beloved holiday tale of a little girl named Marie who receives a wooden Nutcracker doll on Christmas Eve. She soon discovers that an evil Mouse King has cast a spell on him! Can Marie save her beloved Nutcracker?

Nutcracker Twinkle Toes book
Nutcracker Twinkle Toes
Written and illustrated by Karen Katz
board book
Recommend Ages: 3-5

Here is a Christmastime follow-up to Karen Katz’s bestselling Twinkle Toes! The toddler ballerinas in this touch-and-feel board book perform the starring roles in The Nutcracker: the Sugar Plum Fairy, a dewdrop fairy, a candy cane dancer, and a snowflake who twirls on an icy lake! Little ones will love touching the shimmery, sparkling fabrics embedded into every spread and will have fun pretending to be part of the show!

Ballet Busters Leap into the First Nutcracker (A Dancing Doorways Academy Series) (Volume 1) book
Ballet Busters Leap into the First Nutcracker (A Dancing Doorways Academy Series) (Volume 1)
Written by Debra DeVoe and illustrated by Karel Hayes
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Hang onto your hats as you whirl through the magical Super Time Tunnel with the Ballet Busters and their beloved dance teacher, Miss Sophia. Meet Marti, Julie, Zack, and Luis as they travel back 100 years to St. Petersburg, Russia, just in time for the very first Nutcracker performance. What an amazing journey these young dancers experience — learning about the history of the ballet, battling bullies, and creating chaos onstage and off. Will Marti regain her BFF’s trust? Will she ever have a role bigger than a Little Mouse?

The Story of the Nutcracker Ballet book
The Story of the Nutcracker Ballet
Written by Deborah Hautzig and illustrated by Diane Goode and Deborah Hautzig
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7

Celebrate the season with one of the most beloved holiday stories of all-time, The Story of the Nutcracker Ballet. The perfect addition to your Christmastime! Featuring glorious illustrations by Caldecott Honor-winner, Diane Goode, this beautiful and adventurous classic tale will dance its way into your family’s holiday traditions for years to come.

  1. The Nutcracker (Little Golden Book) - A Christmas classic returns to Little Golden Books, with beautiful new artwork by a beloved Golden Books illustrator! The Nutcracker is back in print as a Little Golden Book, with all-new illustrations by Sheilah Beckett, who started illustrating Golden Books in the 1950s. This lovely retelling of the famous ballet will be a perfect holiday gift for any child who loves the ballet, Christmas stories, and fairy tales!

Did you enjoy our children's book recommendations? Did we miss one of your favorites? Let us know in the comments below!