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.