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Nutcracker, The

Last updated Saturday, September 24, 2016

Author: E.T.A. Hoffman
Illustrator: Don Daily
Date of Publication: 2003
ISBN: 0762416688
Grade Level: 5th    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Dec. 2008

Synopsis: A young girl receives a nutcracker for Christmas and, after learning how he got his ugly face, helps break a spell and change him into a handsome prince.

Note to readers:
•  Vocabulary: lintel and cornice, whirling, sill, tinsel, disentangle, fragrance, waltz, torte, cravat, somber, astonishment, handkerchief, fife, polka, flourished, bugle, savage, hose, scabbard, spellbound, coverlet, languid

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  Discuss and pay attention the pictures throughout the book
•  Do you know what a nutcracker is? Have you ever seen/used one?
•  Have you ever heard of this story before? If no, what do you think it’s about?
•  How do you decorate your house for Christmas? Do you use wreaths?

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  What is the “general doll”? Are there boy dolls?
•  Have you ever seen snow? Enough snow to block windows?
•  Do you think this story takes place in the past, present or future? (Note: have the kids look at the pictures and what the children are wearing)
•  Do you know where Frankfurt is?
•  Do you share you toys with your brothers and sisters? Why was Maria upset that she had to share her toy with Fritz?
•  What’s your favorite Christmas present?
•  Is the Nutcracker alive? Do you ever pretend your dolls are alive?
•  Why were the Nutcracker and the mice fighting? What was the Nutcracker defending?
•  Who do you think will win the battle?
•  How did Maria show bravery? Would you do what Maria did to help a friend? Have you ever helped a friend in need?
•  What do you see in the picture on pages 46-47?
•  What is your favorite food?
•  What kinds of dances do you like to do?
•  (Before Chapter 5) Do you think this was real or do you think Maria was dreaming? When do you think she started dreaming?
•  At the end: Now do you think Maria was dreaming?
•  Have you ever seen or heard of the Nutcracker ballet? Do any of you dance ballet? Talk about the ballet with the kids!

Craft ideas:
•  Word search using the vocabulary words
•  Make a Nutcracker/Mouse King/Clara/Sugar Plum Fairy Tree Topper/Hand Puppet. Take a large circle from construction paper or paper plate. Follow template for Mouse King/Nutcracker or Clara/Sugar Plum Fairy. Draw the Mouse King/Nutcracker/Clara/Sugar Plum Fairy on the front of the paper plate/circle. Fold the ends back and secure with a staple/tape. This could be a hand puppet or tree topper.
•  Act out the fight scene between the nutcrackers and the mice. For visual aids, have half the class make Nutcracker puppets and the other half make Mice King Puppets.
•  Act out the dance scene with Clara and/or the Sugar Plum Fairies

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don’t have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!