Duke Ellington’s Nutcracker Suite

Author: Anna Harwell Celenza

Illustrator: Don Tate

Published: 2011

Publisher: Charlesbridge Publishing

Sold-out audiences flock to Las Vegas, Nevada. It’s 1960 and jazz fans can’t get enough of Duke Ellington and his big band. Eager to create fresh, new tunes, Duke and his best-friend and collaborator, Billy Strayhorn, decide to reinvent a holiday tradition. In their own unique style, the two composers remake Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite.

It’s a challenge to transform the Nutcracker Suite’s romantic orchestra into jumpin’ jazz melodies. Duke’s band members aren’t so sure that a classical ballet can become a cool-cat jazz number. But Duke and Billy, inspired by their travels and by musical styles past and present, infuse the composition with Vegas glitz, Hollywood glamour, and even a little New York jazz-atooty. The Nutcracker Suite has never been so hip!


Publisher’s Weekly
“The brilliant music cues Tate’s full-bleed mixed-media pictures. Bold ink strokes outline and define figures . . . and create movement across paint-spattered spreads studded with stars, snowflakes and musical notes. The palette marries rich violet-blues with hot, harmonious yellows, sepia and crimson. The delightful accompanying full-length CD is a must-listen . . . real cool.”

“Tate’s mixed-media artwork keeps tempo with Celenza’s vibrant writing . . . incorporating piano keys, musical notation, swirling colors, and Nutcracker motifs spiced up with a big-band flavor. An upbeat Christmas book about breaking boundaries and experimenting with new ideas.”

“Tate’s mixed-media illustrations celebrate the sensuous pleasure of Ellington’s creation with warm colors and loose lines.”

New York Times Sunday Book Review
Tate (“Black All Around!,” “She Loved Baseball”) mixes lively images of the musicians playing with scenes that evoke, alternately, the “Russian Dance,” (now “The Volga Vouty”) and “Waltz of the Flowers” (“Dance of the Floreadores”).