Today, we are so pleased to be hosting a stop on the official blog tour for The Toymaker’s Apprentice by Sherri Smith, a wildly imaginative story inspired by The Nutcracker. Today, Sherri stops by to chat with us about the book. Be sure to keep reading for more information on the book, too!
Love of Christian Drosselmeyer, pure and simple. As a child, he was a magician and a mystery to me. I’ve always wanted to know how he got to be that way. Throw in a mouse with seven heads and travel to exotic lands and I was hooked. From there, my goal was to marry this fantasy to our real world, to find a way to integrate the magic and the mundane. That’s a gift to a much younger me, who wanted to live in the story, but never quite found the little door in the wall between fiction and the real world. This book will be that door.
What drew you to Stefan Drosselmeyer as your protagonist rather than, say, Clara?
Clara gets a lot of attention in the ballet, and that’s great, but it only made me more curious about the other hero of the story—the nutcracker. In Hoffman’s book, the boy isn’t even given a name. He is simply referred to as the son of a toymaker, and cousin to Clara’s godfather. Don’t some of the greatest stories live in crevices like that?
For me, the biggest challenge was making a real protagonist out of Stefan. Originally, I wanted to tell his cousin Christian’s story. There is a rich backstory I developed over time that informs this book, but you only see it in glimpses. Switching tracks to a younger character, learning how to write an honest voice for a younger boy—that was tricky for me. I especially bumped up against the element of loss in the story. Stefan has lost a parent, one of the other main characters suffers the same. It wasn’t until I lost my own mother that I felt I could tap into what these two kids must feel.
When did you first fall in love with The Nutcracker?
I discovered the original story when I was in elementary school, in a book beside the sofa at my piano teacher’s house. My mother then took me to see Mikhail Baryshnikov dance the ballet, and I was hooked. When Drosselmeyer swept onto the stage, I fell head over heels in love!
Why do you think The Nutcracker continues to be such a popular story?
The Nutcracker ballet begins with a big Christmas party, the kind we all wish we’d be invited to. Wind up dancing dolls, a huge tree and a crackling fire—it’s picture perfect. From there, I think we can credit Hoffman’s insane imagination. He takes the reader on flights of fancy that are dizzying. There is good and evil, classic heroic struggles, and an attempt to become human. I think the archetypes make it universal. This is a battle for goodness at the darkest time of the year. If it ends in triumph and some dancing, what’s not to love. Throw in Tchaikovsky’s gorgeous music and it becomes a permanent part of our lives.
Pen or pencil?
Favorite piece of clothing?
Totoro sleep poncho. It’s so fluffy!
Song you can’t get out of your head right now?
I Think I’m Going Out of My Head
Most recent vacation?
England and Italy!
5 things that are always in your purse:
- Scrap paper
- lip balm
- a pen
- Altoid tins—one with a dog sticker on it, one with a cat– repurposed to hold random items
- a Tyvek Star Trek Wallet
Thanks for stopping by, Sherri! Here is more about The Toymaker’s Apprentice, which is in stores TODAY:
A gorgeously imagined Nutcracker retelling from award-winning author making her middle-grade debut
Stefan Drosselmeyer is a reluctant apprentice to his toymaker father until the day his world is turned upside down. His father is kidnapped and Stefan is enlisted by his mysterious cousin, Christian Drosselmeyer, to find a mythical nut to save a princess who has been turned into a wooden doll. Embarking on a wild adventure through Germany, Stefan must save Boldavia’s princess and his own father from the fanatical Mouse Queen and her seven-headed Mouse Prince, both of whom have sworn to destroy the Drosselmeyer family.
Based on the original inspiration for the Nutcracker ballet, Sherri L. Smith brings the Nutcracker Prince to life in this fascinating journey into a world of toymaking, magical curses, clockmaking guilds, talking mice and erudite squirrels.