In the vein of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and Number the Stars, this fusion of fairy tales, folklore, and World War II history eloquently illustrates the power of love and the inherent will to survive even in the darkest of times.
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 Kraków, 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.
Romero's debut, an odd mix of fantasy and brutal history, travels between the Land of the Dolls, which has been destroyed by wicked rats, and Krak w, Poland, during WWII. Karolina, a wooden refugee from the Land of the Dolls, mysteriously arrives in the workshop of a kind, crippled, and sad toymaker, known as the Dollmaker of Krak w. The Dollmaker turns out to have magical abilities that bring toys to life; together he and Karolina endure the growing cruelty and devastation of the German Occupation, befriending a Jewish musician and his daughter, Rena, and trying to help them as the Nazis slowly decimate the Jews. The close bonds that Karolina forms with the Dollmaker and with Rena are well developed, and Romero accurately presents aspects of Polish history and folklore. The juxtaposition of fantasy with war is jolting, though, and sensitive readers may have trouble with the darkness of the story, which is filled with hatred, loss, grief, and only a little hope. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 8 12. Author's)