A Dancer's Dream: The Real Story of The Nutcracker

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

12-year-old Stana is a student at the Imperial Ballet School in St Petersburg when a certain Mr Tchaikovsky visits to help choose a dancer to play the part of Clara in his ballet, The Nutcracker.

When Stana is chosen for the part, she loves escaping to a world of dancing sweets and fairies amid the glorious music, not least because it helps her forget to worry about her sister Olga, who is ill in hospital. Stana convinces herself that if she dances well enough, her sister will get well.

Yet when reviews come in for the first performance of The Nutcracker, they are critical - even of Stana's performance. That night, Stana has a horrible nightmare, dreaming that Olga is slipping away. However, in the morning, someone has left a wonderful present on Stana's bed - and a letter from her mother brings news that means Christmas will be brighter than Stana could ever have dreamed.

Katherine Woodfine's lovely, heartfelt story is loosely based on history: Stanislava Belinskaya was the first girl to play the role of Clara in The Nutcracker, and the ballet did indeed receive bad reviews when it was first shown.

Woodfine's simple yet human story and Lizzy Stewart's beautiful illustration ensure that the magic of the ballet will reach a whole new audience.

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