The Nutcracker in Harlem by T. E. Morrow and illustrated by James Ransome marvelously sets the stage for a retelling of E.T.A. Hoffmann's classic Christmas story in Sugar Hill during the Harlem Renaissance. Morrow, a journalist and playwright, worked as a stagehand for the Dance Theater of Harlem, and wanted his story to be set in a place where he had, "seen the power of music and dance transform people, performers and audiences alike." Morrow's adaptation of The Nutcracker and Ransome's vibrant illustrations bring new vision to a classic story, even making Cab Calloway and Adelaide Hall, a vocalist with Duke Ellington's band, part of the story.
"It was snowing in Harlem on Christmas Eve," and Marie's family is having a party, the house swirling with colors and sounds. Her Uncle Cab gives her a nutcracker - a drummer boy nutcracker. Miss Addie asks Marie to sing along with her and all the other joyous partygoers, but Marie shyly declines. Falling asleep by the Christmas tree, a slice of sweet potato pie at her side and the nutcracker in her lap. When she wakes, a battle under the Christmas tree is going waged, the mouse army against the nutcracker and the toy soldiers behind him. When the nutcracker falls, Marie takes up his drum and finds her voice and wins the battle. When she wakes in the morning, she has truly found her voice, drumming along with Uncle Cab as he play the piano.
Source: Review Copy