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A1 French Reading Challenge

Week Two: Histoire d’un Casse-Noisette (The Nutcracker)

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Week One: Introduction


Week Two: The Nutcracker / EFR 1

Week Three: The Black Tulip / EFR 2

Week Four: Fables / EFR 3

Week Five: Beauty and the Beast / EFR 4

Week Six: Lancelot / EFR Revision


Week Seven: A1 DELF Exam papers (for weird fun)

(EFR= Easy French Reader)


Week One

WELCOME to the second week of our French reading challenge! Last week, I introduced the challenge but this week is our first actual book, The Nutcracker, written by the prolific French luminary Alexandre Dumas.


In this post, like all others in the A1 French Reading Challenge series, I’ll summarise each chapter and provide a short glossary of words that I felt necessary to look up*. If I make a mistake, please be kind! I’m setting this French challenge up as a personal challenge to improve my own level. I’m no expert! 

(To learn more about why I believe readers are the best way to learn a foreign language, click here. To learn about how to choose a suitable text, click here)


Summary (SPOILERS!) and Vocabulary


Chapter One: La Veille de Noël


It’s Christmas Eve in Nuremberg and the festive preparations are in full swing. Two young children, Marie and Fritz, are at home where a great party is taking place. They’re waiting for their Uncle Drosselmayer; a man with a great talent for inventing fabulous toys. But he hasn’t arrived. Where could he be? 




  1. toit: roof

  2. Bougies: candles

  3. Moyens: medium

  4. Soldats de plomb: tin soldiers

  5. tôt: soon

  6. surnomment: nickname

  7. maigres: thin

  8. révérence: bow

  9. autour: around

  10. se tient debout: stand

  11. manteau: coat

  12. accueillante: homely


Chapter Two: Le Casse-Noisette


Uncle Drosselmayer starts to show everyone at the party what his toys can do. Everyone’s impressed. The children finally received their presents; some tin soldiers for Fritz and a Nutcracker  for Marie. However, Fritz plays a trick on Marie that doesn’t end well…


  1. ensuite: then

  2. saute: jumps

  3. quand même: all the same; anyway


Chapter Three: Minuit Magique


Marie can’t sleep because she’s worried about the Nutcracker. She goes into the kitchen to see how he is when something strange happens; she begins to shrink! Suddenly, an army of rats and with their terrible leader, The Rat King, start to march towards her with vicious intent. Who can save her now?!


  1. se cacher: hide

  2. jette: throw

  3. bouge: move

  4. épaisse: thick


Chapter Four: Le Prince


Marie wakes up in a magical land where the Nutcracker is waiting for her. They travel to the Kingdom of Puppets where she sees a palace made out of delicious sweets. A spectacular show has been prepared in their honour. 


  1. crème chantilly: whipped cream

  2. flocons: snowflakes

  3. confitures: jam

  4. dorée: golden


Chapter Five: La Royaume des Poupées


The spectacle is nothing short of amazing; Spanish dancers sharing delicious sweets; Russian acrobats performing magical feats; Chinese entertainers offering wonderful tea. The audience is swept off its feet by the performance.


  1. surprenante: amazing

  2. eux-mêmes: themselves

  3. talons hauts: high heels


Chapter Six: Le Jour de Noël


The spectacle draws to an end and the guests wind down. Exhausted, Marie rests her eyes, only to wake up in her house in Nuremberg. She looks around to see Uncle Drosselmayer standing beside her bed. Her magical adventure was nothing but a dream, after all. 

Or was it?


Geek Corner

The book, excluding exercises, has roughly 327 lines of text. By reading it ten times, we have read 3270 lines of French, which leaves us with:

1) 6730 lines of texts to get to basic level (10,000 sentences)

2) 93,270 lines of texts to get to intermediate level (100,000 sentences)

3) 193,270 lines of texts to get to advanced level (200,000 sentences)

The status for our first goal looks like this:














Well, I hope you have all enjoyed this book! I know I did. Now I'm getting ready for next week's book, The Black Tulip, also written by Alexandre Dumas. 

Please leave your comments below and share if you think it has value.

See you next week!

*This glossary won’t be extensive as I don’t believe it’s necessary to look up every unknown word. See challenge introduction here.

Here are the books we are using for the challenge.

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Easy French Reader


Week Two


Week Three


Week Four

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Week Five

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