Soon it will be Christmas. The tree has arrived, and brings the scent of forests into my room. I unpack the box of decorations: coloured candles, bright globes and a fairy which will be placed at the very top. The original story of The Nutcracker was written by ETW Hoffman, a German writer (1776–1822). It was made into a Russian ballet in 1892, to the music of Tchaikovsky, and has become one of the best-loved stories ever told. A couple of years ago a BBC producer called Anne-Marie Maher asked me if I would write a retelling of the story for Radio 4, as one of a series of stories based on famous ballets. As I wrote it I could see how it might be illustrated, as it is so full of colour and atmosphere and drama, and I am thrilled that Doubleday decided to publish it, and to invite the very popular artist Ian Beck to illustrate it. It’s a lovely thought, isn’t it, that one idea could move from story, to ballet, to a radio story, to a picture book!