The Dollmaker of Krakow
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 Krakow, 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.
“FOR THE CHILDREN WHO DIED IN THE HOLOCAUST”- Dedication by R.M. Romero
Books are an affair of the heart, and this one hit the arrow straight into its target.
In two different worlds a war has broken out. One world is the Land of the Dolls, and the other being our world during WWII. Karolina is a doll, a seamstress in her kingdom, where dolls like her go after they have been abandoned by their human owners or are not wanted anymore.
“When their wood and cloth and porcelain could sustain their souls no longer, they went back to the land of the Dolls.”
- R.M. Romero
Karolina has no interest in ever going back into the human world, but finds herself destined to return and wakes up in a dollmakers’ shop in Krakow, the Republic of Poland.
“Karolina awoke in her new world with a glass heart. It felt as if both roses and their thorns grew within that heart, for it held all the happiness and sorrow she had ever experienced in the Land of the Dolls.” - R.M. Romero
The dollmaker is a very skilled craftsman. The best in town. He is working on a beautiful dollhouse when Karolina comes to life and speaks to him. Naturally, the dollmaker likes to stay to himself, but he is learning, that he possesses this magic to bring dolls to life.
The two of them develop a bond of deep friendship during their time together, as in both worlds the situation grows more and more dyer. Together they witness their Jewish friends being taken away. They experience confrontations of German officers as they are trying to help. At some point, the dollmaker reluctantly accepts to be a “Volksdeutscher” on paper, so he can get extra rations to help out the remaining children in the ghetto. And together, despite many dangers, Karolina and her human friend will go beyond boundaries to do their part of resistance in this war in the human world. But will they make it through the war together, and what will happen to the Land of the Dolls?
"He was trying to etch the sight of it into his heart....and that meant the dollmaker didn't think that they would ever see Krakow again.” - R.M. Romero
Where would I be in my life without the evoking books like these? The elixir of emotions….
Speaking to my inner child as well as my reasonable adult being, the interweaving whimsical, magical way to portrait such horrible events in history with an imaginative world, was a great way to write this novel and introduce young readers to the reality of WWII. In a very gentle approach, this novel inches closer and closer to the happenings in concentration camps and Hitler’s “Final Solution” plan.
Most adults, familiar with the history, will not learn anything new in this novel. There is no happy end to the tragedies that have happened, and although age appropriately written, the reality is not hushed over or made into a fairytale ending in this novel. I thought that was a very interesting and strong point.
“No one is ever really lost as long as their story still exists.” - R.M. Romero
What stood out to me in this novel were the humbling characters that tried to do good in a bad world.
A chronology of historical events is found in the back of the book with the authors note and a message to young people:
Please, be kind.
Please, be brave.
Please, don’t let it happen again.
– R.M. Romero
I enjoyed all the little drawings mixed in and the descriptions of polish art and places. Just look at that cover, isn’t it beautiful.
Simply a poignant, exquisite read.