Best known as the inspiration for Tchaikovsky's ballet, The Nutcracker is a charming book in its own right. Full of magic and childish wonder, this coming-of-age novella by E.T.A. Hoffmann has something for everyone: beautiful dolls, ferocious battles and dark undertones. It truly has all the elements of a fairy tale. Younger readers will be enchanted by this children's classic, while older readers will be intrigued to discover the background to the famous ballet libretto. It is Christmas Eve and little Marie has tired of her new presents, happily playing with a nutcracker instead. So when her brother Fritz breaks it, she is horrified, tenderly bandaging the little nutcracker with her ribbon and putting him to bed. When the clock strikes midnight, Marie is stunned to see an army of mice advancing, led by a seven-headed Mouse King. Her very own nutcracker leads the dolls and toys against the mouse army and a violent battle ensues. Just as the nutcracker looks like he might lose, Marie throws her shoe at the mice, and injures herself as she falls over. When she wakes up, her arm is bandaged but nobody will believe her unlikely tale of how she came to hurt herself.Soon after, her godfather comes for a visit and tells her the story of the nutcracker. As the tale unfolds, Marie learns about the ongoing feud between the mice and their enemy Princess Pirlipat. It sounds fanciful, but could it be true? And if the fairy tale is true, shouldn't there be a Prince Charming in the offing for Marie? This timeless tale is full of the magic of Christmas, but is a delight to read at any time of the year. Its enduring popularity is testament to its originality and charm.