The Dollmaker of Kraków
When the Land of the Dolls is invaded by a horde of cruel, hungry rats, Karolina is taken captive and flees into the deep, dark woods. From there she is called by the wind to Kraków to live with a lonely dollmaker whose magic powers bring Karolina to life – a secret they share with no one but their best friends, Jewish musician Jozef and his daughter Rena. Then the Nazis arrive in Poland, occupying Krakow and beginning their dispossession of the Jews. Karolina and the dollmaker discover they must use all the magic they can command to save Jozef and Rena from a terrible fate.
This is not an easy read, but it is quite a stunning one, as the author quietly leads her young readers deeper and deeper into the horrors of the Holocaust, sparing them little along the way. However, there is light as well as shade here, Romero’s beautiful writing casting a spell as powerful as the magic of Karolina and the dollmaker, who fight with moving courage against the malevolent force that has invaded Kraków. Romero has written a book that lingers in the mind, its bittersweet ending a reminder of how those gifted with unique talent have the power to do great good or appalling evil in our complex world. The Dollmaker of Kraków has been written for the 10+ age group, and I would particularly recommend it for avid young readers with a sophisticated vocabulary and a deep well of imagination.