The Dollmaker of Krakow

336p. illus. by Lisa Perrin. Random. Sept. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781524715397.
Gr 4–7—There are two worlds depicted in this story: the magical Land of the Dolls and the very real setting of Krakow, Poland, during the German occupation at the start of World War II. Karolina is a doll whose King and Queen have been overthrown by huge, evil rats. She is a prisoner in her own home as the rats wreak havoc and devastation everywhere. When she is able to escape to the forest, a mystical wind whisks her to the Toy Shop of Cyryl, a lonely dollmaker in Krakow. He crafted Karolina to resemble a doll his mother had owned as a child, yet is astounded when Karolina speaks to him. She soon draws him out of his shell, and he begins to smile again. They befriend Josef, a Jewish violinist, and his young daughter, Rena. Because of the insidious evil of the Nazis, they fear their friends are in dire danger. When Josef and Rena are forced into a ghetto, Karolina encourages Cyryl to use his magic to help. He successfully transforms the children in the ghetto so they can be smuggled out to safety. Unfortunately, the violinist and dollmaker do not share this happy ending. Romero has thoroughly researched Polish folklore and uses a few of its characters, some superfluously, in the text. Perrin's pencil drawings are lovely and reminiscent of Eastern European folk art.
VERDICT The use of a fairy tale—inspired narrative somewhat softens the real horror and cruelty of the Holocaust. Hopefully young readers will understand the difference.

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