From its peep around the curtain opening I was totally captivated by Jane Ray’s rendition of the well-known Nutcracker story. With one breathtakingly beautiful spread after another she turns it into something truly magical – a must have book for this Christmas season (and all year round).
The tale of Clara and her unusual gift – the toy soldier Nutcracker from her toymaker godfather – is tenderly and eye-wateringly rendered as readers are treated to first, the anticipation of things to come in the welcoming guests to the party…
the gathering around the tree scene and the arrival of Herr Drosselmeyr. Then follows Clara’s sadness at the accidentally broken arm of her Nutcracker, followed by another happy gathering – around the dinner table this time.
Possibly my favourite view of all comes next: the one Clara sees having crept downstairs from her bed when ‘The house was shadowy in the moonlight. The candles were all snuffed out and the fire had burnt down to a heap of glowing embers. The only sounds were the ticking of the grandfather clock, and an owl calling from the snowy garden. ‘ (How beautifully the prose flows.)
In a dark corner by the tree, Clara could just make out tiny lights glowing.’
Next come scenes of the mouse army and the toy soldiers rallying and the challenge of the Mouse King by a transformed Nutcracker who, aided and abetted by Clara, sees off the attackers. Thereafter comes the voyage of Clara and the Nutcracker to his realm, the Kingdom of Sweets, to see the Sugar Plum Fairy …
and the other amazing dancing delights from every land. This, as adults know, culminates in an invitation for Clara and the Nutcracker to join the dazzling dance …
and the dream fades … to Christmas morning.
The awed silence of my audience, quickly followed by “again, again” requests, speaks for itself.