The Blurb (From Goodreads):
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
A beautifully produced and heartrendingly poignant novel for children that delicately weaves together history and fable to create something quite profound.
I was drawn to buy this book because of its beautiful cover, designed by Lisa Perrin, and exquisite internal illustrations by Tomislav Tomic, a fairy-tale-inspired artist whose work I’ve long admired. It’s dedication by the author reads: ‘for the children who were lost in the Holocaust’ and the back cover begins: ‘There is war. There is pain. But there is magic and there is hope.’ So I knew what to expect between the covers – a story of sorrow and strength, wonder and woe – and R.M. Romero did not disappoint me.
Set in Kraków in 1939, the story explores the friendship between a dollmaker whose fingertips carry magic and the beautiful little doll he brings to life. ‘Karolina awoke in her new world with a glass heart. It felt as if both roses and their thorns grew within that heart, for it held all the happiness and sorrow she had ever experienced in the Land of the Dolls.’
The dollmaker is by nature shy and retiring, but Karoline helps him make new friends and begin to open up to life. Then Kraków is invaded by the Nazis. The beautiful city is bombed, soldiers in jackboots march the cobbled streets, and their Jewish friends face unspeakable danger. Both the dollmaker and the doll will learn how dark the human heart can be, and also how courage, kindness and self-sacrifice can triumph even in the most terrible of times.
‘Please, be kind.
Please, be brave.
Please, don’t let it happen again.’
It reminded me of ‘The Devil’s Arithmetic’ by Jane Yolen and ‘The Museum of Mary Child’ by Cassandra Golds, two of my favourite children’s’ authors – that is very high praise indeed.