The Dollmaker of Krakow by R M Romero
Walker Books, 2017. ISBN 9781406375633
(Age: 10+) "In the land of dolls, there is magic.
In the land of humans, there is war.
Everywhere there is pain.
But together there is hope."
Karolina is a living doll whose king and queen have been overthrown. But when a strange wind spirits her away from the Land of the Dolls, she finds herself in Krakow, Poland, in the company of the Dollmaker, a man with an unusual power and a marked past. The Dollmaker has learned to keep to himself, but Karolina's courageous and compassionate manner lead him to smile and to even befriend a violin-playing father and his daughter - that is, once the Dollmaker gets over the shock of realizing a doll is speaking to him. But their newfound happiness is dashed when Nazi soldiers descend upon Poland. Karolina and the Dollmaker quickly realize that their Jewish friends are in grave danger, and they are determined to help save them, no matter what the risks.
This book is beautifully written in quite an unusual way. There are two worlds in the story - the stark reality of Krakow, Poland in the 1940s and the fantasy world of The Land of Dolls where Karolina hails from. The reader is certainly drawn to the similarities between them. It is heart-warming to see the friendship develop between the dollmaker and Karolina and how a little wooden doll begins to warm the heart of an old lonely man. Faith in humanity is restored with the bond developing between the two main characters and a Jewish girl and her father.
I believe this book would appeal to children 10 and over and as the worlds of fantasy and historical fiction collide, lovers of both genres would certainly enjoy this book. I believe this book would make a great read aloud and I can see interesting discussions with children as they discuss good and evil, develop their awareness of empathy and see that good can prevail over evil.