Monday, December 18, 2023

Today's read... The Caroler by Liza Martini

The Nutcracker belongs to Christmas as much as candy canes and jingle bells. So, I was excited to get this retelling in my hands.

    by Liza Martini
Middle Grade Holiday Fantasy
129 pages
ages 8 to 12

Have you ever wondered where the Nutcracker got his fierce eyes? His disturbing set of choppers, or the lever in his back? He wasn’t always such an odd-looking fellow. In The Caroler, the story intertwines with The Nutcracker: The Story of the Hard Nut to bring this folktale by E.T.A. Hoffman into the 21st century, and throw some light on a beloved, yet peculiar fairy tale.

In a dark basement one July afternoon, a nutcracker awakes in his excelsior crate and is surprised to see two other figurines, Carol and Glory, staring back at him from the opposite end. He’ll have to get used to much more than shared space before long. When toys and dolls with human likeness are animated by an itinerant Grace Light, their stories become linked. The story of bacon and sausages, greed and gluttony, curses and a need for redemption is the backstory of The Nutcracker told throughout. But he has lost all hope of living as anything but this wooden manikin form. It is Carol who gradually draws him out of his hard shell, and makes him aware of the caring heart he once had. Carol is cautious but kind, believing, “No one can help how they are formed, or sketched, or molded. She believed that goodness should be expected and returned.” Glory, a shimmering tree-topping angel, is no stranger to miracles and unusual phenomena. Her arming presence helps bring the story to its “logical conclusion.”

The Caroler is for Nutcracker fans, fans of Christmas Carols, and stories full of miracles, curses, and redemption.


With a refreshing twist on The Nutcracker, this tale touches with fairy tale vibes and brings more than a little magic to the season.

The original tale reflects clearly in this story, while still taking enough of an original weave to give it a bit of a Toy Story atmosphere...of course, set in modern day. The story begins at a market, where Carol and others are being sold on sale. The scenes soon leads to basement storage, where the Nutcracker comes in. From there, the tale unfolds with vivid world building and scenes to get lost in. The rich stories behind the characters make them easy to sympathize with and sets the stage for the growth each will experience during the adventure. There's tons of heart woven into the tale to create a read, which leads to more than a little thought.

The writing flows nicely and held some of the same feel as the original tale, while still edging enough toward the modern world to be familiar. It's steady paced and would even work well as a bedtime read (spread over more nights). It is a lovely read for the Holiday season, especially for fans of magical tales with adventure and heart.

1 comment:

Natalie Aguirre said...

This sounds like a great holiday read. And it's a shorter story, which appeals to some kids too. I wish my daughter was younger so I could read it with her. It's a perfect book to feature this week.