Nutcracker and the
Written by Ursula Jones Illustrated by Mariano Epelbaum
Chapter 1 This Christmas was extra special because it was the day the Nutcracker arrived. At first, Marie didn’t notice him. She was too busy unwrapping her beautiful new doll. Fritz, her brother, was just as busy opening a box of toy soldiers. Then there were sweets to eat, storybooks to look through and games to play with their parents. Finally, there was old Godfather Dee’s present.
Marie’s Godfather Dee was a judge, but you’d never have guessed: his old-fashioned clothes were very scruffy, his judge’s wig didn’t fit properly and he spent all his time mending clocks and making clockwork toys.
This Christmas, he’d made them a wonderful palace with clockwork people waving from the turrets and strolling about inside. “It’s boring now,” said Fritz, after watching them for a while. “Make them do something different.”
Godfather Dee looked so angry that Marie went to hide behind her father. Thatâ€™s when she saw the little Nutcracker standing under the Christmas tree. He had a big head and spindly legs and wore a smart soldierâ€™s uniform with a sword at his side. Something about his painted smile and green eyes made her feel sorry for him. 5
She sat happily cracking nuts in his strong jaws and eating the pieces, but then Fritz wanted a go. He put a big brazil nut in the Nutcracker’s mouth and … CRUNCH! … the Nutcracker’s chin hung loose and wobbly and he’d lost two teeth. “How could you, Fritz?” Marie wept. Fritz shrugged. “Why are you crying? He’s useless. Chuck him out.” But Marie wouldn’t, and she bandaged the Nutcracker’s jaw with a ribbon from her dress.
At bedtime, when her parents and Fritz had gone upstairs, Marie put theÂ Nutcracker to bed in the glass cabinet where the children kept their special toys.
“Godfather Dee will mend you tomorrow,” she comforted him. At the sound of her godfather’s name, the Nutcracker’s smile vanished and his eyes flashed green sparks. Marie blinked. Was he alive? But when she looked again, the Nutcracker was smiling his painted smile. She must have imagined it. 8
While she was locking the cabinet, Marie heard a noise like the scratching of baby fingernails coming from under the floor, then from the walls. Now she could hear it in the ceiling. The grandfather clock in the corner made a strangled, whirring sound, and the carved wooden owl on top craned forward and croaked: “Tick-tock, Strike not. Mouse King hears a pin drop. Don’t chime tonight Or he’ll get a fright And run off.” Then she realised it wasn’t the owl but Godfather Dee crouching up there. “I thought you’d gone home ages ago,” Marie cried. “Come down.” But he didn’t. 9
Then the room began to dance with pinpoints of light. But they werenâ€™t lights: they were eyes. Mice eyes. Mice poured out of the walls and the ceiling and formed into ranks, the way Fritz lined up his soldiers for battle. Marie thought they looked quite funny until she heard a chilling screech and the floor exploded in a cloud of rubble.