NEW YORK (AP) _ Out of print for several years, the Maurice Sendak-illustrated version of E.T.A. Hoffmann's ``Nutcracker'' is back this year.

But, warns Sendak, this 100-page version is not a watered-down, sugary-sweet ``Nutcracker.''

``This is not a Christmas story. It's about the very natural and terrifying things that happen when you're growing up. ... All the emotional and physical changes, and also the adventure and excitement,'' he told The Associated Press.

When Hoffmann wrote ``The Nutcracker'' in the 19th century, it wasn't a ``children's story,'' said Sendak. It was a story about children that readers young and old could appreciate.

And while Sendak is most famous for his children's books, he said he also never writes or draws things that are oversimplified for children.

``I and they (children) can appreciate and love simple books with depth. That's very different than `dumbed down,''' he said by phone from his home in Ridgefield, Conn.

Sendak, 73, received the Caldecott Medal in 1964 for ``Where the Wild Things Are.'' He's also won several other honors for his illustrations. He laughs at one: ``I've been officially named a living legend, can you believe that?''

``Nutcracker'' is being reissued by Crown Publishing.