05 August 2009

Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy

by Sue Whiting. Illustrated by Sarah Davis

New Frontier Publishing. Picture book, Australian. Hardback rrp $27.95.

I was immediately entranced by the cover’s lifelike fairy whose mischievous eyes dared me to open the book. Maybe there was magic inside.

Candymakers Mary and Marcus struggle to meet the greedy king’s ever increasing demand for their sugar plum lollies. When he gets an awful stomach ache from overeating, he expects them to cure it too. Fortunately they have the fairy’s help.

The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy is a clever combination of classic fairytale storytelling and rich passages full of movement and sound. Young readers will delight in the bubble, slap, slap, thump, swish, swoosh, bang of the candy making process.

There is plenty to giggle about as well. Marcus worries about being ‘strung upside down in the market square so pigeons can poop on us’ and the king is drawn with a ridiculous long nose, perfect for sniffing out tasty treats.

The illustrations are gorgeous. Not normally a word I use but perfect to describe Sarah Davis’ sugar plum fairyland. Davis has been shortlisted for the 2009 CBCA Crichton Award given to an outstanding new illustration talent.

Words and pictures mesh to provide a rich sensory experience but there is also a third dimension. The book is part of a unique concept series introducing young children to classical music and is accompanied by a CD of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite ballet (which contains The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy) with Antonia Kidman narrating the story.

This book would make an excellent gift – appreciated by readers (and listeners) young and old. And yes, there is magic inside.

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