One could wish all war stories were genuine fantasies.

THE DOLLMAKER OF KRAKÓW

A living, speaking doll; magical and folkloric elements; and Nazi terror meld in this novel set in World War II Krakow, Poland.

Karolina is blown by a magical wind from the war-torn Land of the Dolls into the shop and life of Cyryl, the white Dollmaker of Krakow, a lonely, skilled craftsman with magical abilities. Astounded to encounter the enchanting wooden creature, he repairs her and learns of her travails: her homeland, like his, has been ravaged by war and taken over by dictatorial rats who’ve conquered her country and savaged the population. They become steadfast comrades and soon befriend Jewish neighbors, a violinist and his daughter who are increasingly threatened by the worsening Nazi menace. With the situation in Krakow worsening, the Dollmaker and Karolina become ever more desperate. Inspired by Karolina’s ingenious idea, Cyryl magically effects an astonishing transformation of Krakow’s children, enabling them to be smuggled out of the ghetto. It’s an odd tale. Readers expecting the fantastic and magical elements to soften the terrifying depictions of Nazi brutality will be disillusioned: horrors are described, and death pervades the narrative. While Karolina and the non-Nazi human protagonists are sympathetic, the disparate threads don’t jell. Worse, combining a very realistic war story with a fairy-tale one may, unfortunately, suggest to some readers that the nonfiction component isn’t real either.

One could wish all war stories were genuine fantasies. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5247-1539-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit...

NUMBER THE STARS

The author of the Anastasia books as well as more serious fiction (Rabble Starkey, 1987) offers her first historical fiction—a story about the escape of the Jews from Denmark in 1943.

Five years younger than Lisa in Carol Matas' Lisa's War (1989), Annemarie Johansen has, at 10, known three years of Nazi occupation. Though ever cautious and fearful of the ubiquitous soldiers, she is largely unaware of the extent of the danger around her; the Resistance kept even its participants safer by telling them as little as possible, and Annemarie has never been told that her older sister Lise died in its service. When the Germans plan to round up the Jews, the Johansens take in Annemarie's friend, Ellen Rosen, and pretend she is their daughter; later, they travel to Uncle Hendrik's house on the coast, where the Rosens and other Jews are transported by fishing boat to Sweden. Apart from Lise's offstage death, there is little violence here; like Annemarie, the reader is protected from the full implications of events—but will be caught up in the suspense and menace of several encounters with soldiers and in Annemarie's courageous run as courier on the night of the escape. The book concludes with the Jews' return, after the war, to homes well kept for them by their neighbors.

A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit of riding alone in Copenhagen, but for their Jews. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 1989

ISBN: 0547577095

Page Count: 156

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1989

Did you like this book?

Falters in its oversimplified portrayal of a complicated region and people.

GROUND ZERO

Parallel storylines take readers through the lives of two young people on Sept. 11 in 2001 and 2019.

In the contemporary timeline, Reshmina is an Afghan girl living in foothills near the Pakistan border that are a battleground between the Taliban and U.S. armed forces. She is keen to improve her English while her twin brother, Pasoon, is inspired by the Taliban and wants to avenge their older sister, killed by an American bomb on her wedding day. Reshmina helps a wounded American soldier, making her village a Taliban target. In 2001, Brandon Chavez is spending the day with his father, who works at the World Trade Center’s Windows on the World restaurant. Brandon is heading to the underground mall when a plane piloted by al-Qaida hits the tower, and his father is among those killed. The two storylines develop in parallel through alternating chapters. Gratz’s deeply moving writing paints vivid images of the loss and fear of those who lived through the trauma of 9/11. However, this nuance doesn’t extend to the Afghan characters; Reshmina and Pasoon feel one-dimensional. Descriptions of the Taliban’s Afghan victims and Reshmina's gentle father notwithstanding, references to all young men eventually joining the Taliban and Pasoon's zeal for their cause counteract this messaging. Explanations for the U.S. military invasion of Afghanistan in the author’s note and in characters’ conversations too simplistically present the U.S. presence.

Falters in its oversimplified portrayal of a complicated region and people. (author’s note) (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-24575-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

more