A Child's Introduction to the Nutcracker

The Story, Music, Costumes, and Choreography of the Fairy Tale Ballet


By Heather Alexander

Illustrated by Amelie Videlo

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$24.99 CAD



  1. Hardcover $19.99 $24.99 CAD
  2. ebook $12.99 $16.99 CAD

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around October 26, 2021. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

Ballet enthusiasts of all ages will delight in the magical story of The Nutcracker and the magnificent ballet it inspired in this enchanted book packed with colorful illustrations, fun facts, history, music, and the love of dance.

Whether The Nutcracker is your first ballet experience or you’re already a master dancer, everything you love and want to know about this special, sugar-spun, snow-dusted ballet can be found in these delightful pages. Follow The Nutcracker as it makes its way from page to stage to become the world’s most popular holiday ballet. Learn all about the dazzling steps, spins, and jumps choreographed by Petipa, Ivanov, and Balanchine, and meet the famed composer Tchaikovsky. Special sections highlight some of the most famous dancers and companies that have brought the performance and the magic of this ballet to life.

Packed with charming illustrations showcasing the beautiful costumes and lavish sets, plus removable poster for you to color, A Child’s Introduction to the Nutcracker lets you to enjoy this magical ballet all year round! 


The Story

It was Christmas Eve. In the twilight’s soft glow, the town’s streets glistened with gently falling snow. Icicles hung from rooftops, and frost-dusted wreaths decorated doorways. Last-minute shoppers tightened their woolen scarves and buttoned their collars against the swirling wind. Everyone hurried home, arms laden with wrapped packages and sugar-spun sweets.

In Clara’s house, the fireplace burned warm and bright. The aroma of cinnamon and peppermint floated down the hall from the kitchen. Holiday excitement filled the air. The familiar notes of a favorite melody played beyond the parlor’s large double doors.

Balanced atop a wooden chair, Clara peeked through the door’s keyhole.

Her parents were inside preparing for the family’s wondrous party. They had instructed her and her brother, Fritz, to wait patiently in the hallway. But Christmas Eve was the most exciting day of the year. More exciting than her birthday and the first day of summer put together! How could she possibly be patient when sparkle and magic lay beyond these doors?

“What do you see?” Fritz asked, tugging impatiently on the hem of his older sister’s dress. “Is the tree beautiful? Are there toys?”

“I don’t know.” Clara pressed her eye to the keyhole again.

A garland of holly. The sleeve of her mother’s fancy blue dress. Glittering tinsel.

The keyhole was too tiny to glimpse much more. Clara stepped down, frustrated.

Fritz scrambled onto the chair, eager for his turn. He pressed his ear to the keyhole. “I think I hear Father. He’s saying—”

At that moment, the doorbell rang.

The butler answered it, and a flurry of stomping feet and voices filled the foyer. The guests had arrived. Hats, gloves, and heavy coats were shed. The women fluffed their colorful skirts. The men straightened their ties. The children raced down the hallway as they all made their way, laughing and talking, to the closed parlor doors.

Fritz jumped off the chair, eagerly greeting the boys from his class. One boy started a game of tag, and they raced about, darting among the merry adults. Clara hugged each of her friends. Everyone was so dressed up! She admired their pretty hair ribbons and shiny shoes.

A silver bell chimed, and the large doors were finally flung open.

“Welcome, welcome!” Clara and Fritz’s parents cried, ushering in their guests.

The parlor glowed with golden candlelight and was fragrant with pine. For a moment, Clara simply stood and stared openmouthed at the towering evergreen that occupied the center of the room. Hundreds of delicate glass balls and strands of white lights twinkled on its branches. Candy canes, foil-covered chocolates, marzipan stars, and gingerbread animals decorated it, too. And spread out at the very base of the tree were piles of shiny presents in every shape and size.

Clara let out a squeal of delight and raced over to examine them. The other children had already gathered round, pointing out dolls and drums.

“Look at these!” Fritz bent over a squadron of toy soldiers. He jumped up and marched, as if he, too, were a soldier. Then he spotted a hobbyhorse on a stick and set off at a gallop around the tree.

Clara peered through a brass kaleidoscope, entranced by the twirling colors inside.

Lively music played, and the adults paired off to dance. Tiny iced cakes set upon silver trays were offered to the guests. Fritz reached up and grabbed three. Clara thought to scold him, but just then a hush fell over the room.

An old man appeared in the doorway.

He was tall and thin and dressed in black from head to toe. Tufts of white hair stuck out from the sides of his otherwise bald head. A patch covered his right eye, giving him a sinister look. He gazed about with his one good eye, frowning until he spotted Clara. Then he smiled.

“Godfather Drosselmeyer!” Placing the kaleidoscope back under the tree, Clara flung herself into his open arms.

He gave her a quick hug, then announced, “I have presents.”

Clara clapped. Her godfather always gave the best gifts! He was a clever toymaker, but the people in town whispered that Drosselmeyer was also a magician. They said he made his toys move by enchanting them with magic.

But Clara didn’t believe that. She’d visited his workshop and knew about the hidden gears and springs he used to build his toys. Clara was very interested in how machines worked. How everything worked, really. That was why she was Drosselmeyer’s favorite. Well, that, and because Fritz always broke every new toy he got.

Now Drosselmeyer dragged two enormous boxes into the center of the room. One had a big yellow bow. The other had a big purple bow. Everyone circled round, curious. What marvelous toys had Drosselmeyer invented this year?

Drosselmeyer stepped forward and opened the boxes. Clara leaped back. Two life-sized dolls walked out on their own! One was Harlequin, and the other, Columbine. They both wore colorful, diamond-patterned satin outfits. Drosselmeyer placed a metal crank into each of their backs to wind both of them up. Once, twice, three times—and then the mechanical dolls began to dance together.

Once the dolls finished their performance, Clara’s godfather pulled her aside. “I have a special present for you.”

She followed Drosselmeyer’s gaze to the tree. He nodded, and she hurried over to find a small doll tucked underneath. It was a soldier, carved out of wood, standing stiffly at attention. It wore a painted-blue coat and a tall, red hat. Its head seemed too big for its body. She stared at it, and for a moment, she imagined its painted eyes were actually looking at her. She smiled, half expecting the little soldier to smile back.

“It’s a nutcracker,” explained Drosselmeyer. “Let me show you.”

He produced a walnut and pulled a lever to open the wooden doll’s jaw wide. He popped the nut inside, pushed the lever, and—wham!—the shell cracked in half. The nut fell out, and Drosselmeyer ate it!

Clara gave it a try. She cracked one nut in the mechanical jaw. Then another and another, handing them out to her friends.

“Oh, Godfather!” Clara hugged the nutcracker. “I love him! Thank you—”

“I want him!” Fritz was suddenly by her side. “Let me try!”

“Don’t be so rough.” Clara moved her doll away from his grasping hands.

“Give him here!” Fritz lunged at the nutcracker. He grabbed it by the legs.

Clara held tight onto its head.

Fritz pulled. Clara pulled. But Fritz pulled harder, and then CRACK! The nutcracker’s wooden jaw split apart.

“You broke it!” She whirled on her little brother.

Fritz’s face reddened with embarrassment, and he raced off.

Clara choked back tears. She knew she was too old to cry over a toy, but she was crying for the nutcracker, not for herself. It was as if she could feel the nutcracker’s pain. She cradled him in her arms.

Drosselmeyer reached down and gently untied the blue ribbon Clara wore in her hair. He used it to bandage the nutcracker’s broken jaw. Then he placed the injured doll back under the tree.

“Let him rest tonight,” he told Clara. He brushed away the tear trickling down her cheek.

Clara nodded and glanced into her godfather’s warm gaze. Was that a mysterious twinkle she spotted in his eye? Before Clara could give it another thought, the music started up again, and everyone glided across the floor for a final dance. The party was ending.

Clara didn’t want to leave her nutcracker, but her mother said it would be rude not to see her friends out. The frosty night air rushed through the front door, and she wrapped her arms around herself and wished them good-bye. Then Clara and Fritz were quickly ushered upstairs to get ready for bed.


On Sale
Oct 26, 2021
Page Count
96 pages

Heather Alexander

About the Author

Heather Alexander has written numerous books for children, including previous titles in this series: A Child’s Introduction to Art, A Child’s Introduction to Greek Mythology, A Child’s Introduction to Egyptology, A Child’s Introduction to Norse Mythology, A Child’s Introduction to the World, and A Child’s Introduction to Natural History. She lives in Los Angeles, California.

Learn more about this author