The Dollmaker of Krakow is a middle grade novel written by R.M. Romero. My three girls are in the middle grade range, and so I always end up reading the children’s fiction I receive with them because their feedback is invaluable.
Karolina lived quite happily in the Land of the Dolls until the rats invaded. Her peaceful existence was shattered as the rats began a reign of terror. When things are looking their bleakest, Karolina awakens in a toy shop in the city of Krakow. She meets Mr. Brzezick, the Dollmaker who brought her to life. At first, the Dollmaker is shocked that Karolina can speak to him, but he quickly accepts the magic for what it is.
The Dollmaker and Karolina befriend the Tzermiel family- Jozef, a widower, and his young daughter Rena. The Dollmaker treasures their friendship, but their happiness is relatively short-lived. The German army invades Poland, and Jozef and Rena are placed under restrictions almost immediately because they are Jewish. The Dollmaker wants desperately to help his friends, but what can one man and a talking doll against an entire army?
The narrative alternates between what happens in Krakow and Karolina’s life in the war-torn Land of the Dolls. The latter is clearly allegorical, and my girls picked up on this right away and pointed out the similarities.
Needless to say, this is a very sad story. All four of us were crying by the end of the book. This is one of the girls’ first exposures to World War II and what life was like under the Nazi occupation. Despite the fanciful elements of the story (talking doll), this is a realistic portrayal- the desperation of the Dollmaker who doesn’t know hoe to help, the slow degradation of the Jewish people, and even the apathy of the baker across the street, who doesn’t want to get involved.
I would absolutely recommend The Dollmaker of Krakow. This is a stunning debut and an amazing piece of children’s fiction. We all thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. Some parts are scary and some are sad, but it is important for the next generation to know what happened all those years ago. I don’t think any of us will forget this story anytime soon. Romero is clearly a talented author and we are looking forward to her next book.
I received a digital copy of this book from Netgalley/the publisher in exchange for an honest review.