The Doll­mak­er of Krakow

  • Review
By – May 16, 2017

Set in Poland as World War II begins, this is the sto­ry of Karoli­na, a doll who comes to life, and the kind arti­san who cre­at­ed her as the Nazis gain pow­er and begin to ter­ror­ize the Jews of Europe. In a par­al­lel sto­ry, Karoli­na lives in a mag­i­cal land inhab­it­ed only by dolls which is also fac­ing destruc­tion. An army of Nazi-like rats has invad­ed and is ter­ror­iz­ing the doll pop­u­la­tion and destroy­ing every­thing in its path.

Can Karoli­na the doll and Cyryl the doll­mak­er help their young Jew­ish friends find safe­ty from the Nazis who are every­where and seek to destroy them? Per­haps only mag­ic can help. Can the mag­i­cal Land of the Dolls be saved from inva­sion of hordes of ruth­less rats? Is brav­ery enough?

Undoubt­ed­ly, there will be chil­dren who love read­ing this book. The com­bi­na­tion of dolls and mag­ic set against a back­drop of dan­ger will work for some. There are some tru­ly heart-wrench­ing moments. The fan­ta­sy is appeal­ing and Karoli­na has per­son­al­i­ty and charm. And yet, the jux­ta­po­si­tion of sweet doll moments and abysmal dark­ness will be too stark and gim­micky for many. Read­ers ages 9 to 12 (younger will be too young for the his­tor­i­cal con­text and themes) will be well aware that mag­i­cal dolls did not attempt to res­cue chil­dren dur­ing the Holo­caust. Few enough brave indi­vid­u­als even tried.

Michal Hoschan­der Malen is the edi­tor of Jew­ish Book Coun­cil’s young adult and children’s book reviews. A for­mer librar­i­an, she has lec­tured on top­ics relat­ing to lit­er­a­cy, run book clubs, and loves to read aloud to her grandchildren.

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