cover image The Dollmaker of Kraków

The Dollmaker of Kraków

R.M. Romero, illus. by Lisa Perrin. Delacorte, $16.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-5247-1539-7

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 Kraków, 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 Kraków. 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 agent: Jenny Bent, Bent Agency. Illustrator’s agency: Frank Sturges Reps. (Sept.)