To me, this is the best version of the Nutcracker story, because it was based on the sets that Sendak did for the Nutcracker ballet (for the Pacific Northwest Ballet Company, in 1984, I think).
The story is deftly told, and can keep the attention of even very young listeners, but, of course, the artwork is the star of this book (just as it was in the ballet).
Not everyone knows that Hoffman revered Mozart. Sendak did. Within the ballet, there is a vignette that features Mozart's music, and within the book, there is a bust of Mozart prominently on a bookshelf. I also love the book because the story of the hard nut is told (how the nephew first turned into a nutcracker). And because, about two-thirds of the way through it, there are nine full pages of illustration without text. Nine full pages of Sendak illustrations!