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THE DOLLMAKER OF KRAKÓW

One could wish all war stories were genuine fantasies.

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 4, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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STEALING HOME

An emotional, much-needed historical graphic novel.

Sandy and his family, Japanese Canadians, experience hatred and incarceration during World War II.

Sandy Saito loves baseball, and the Vancouver Asahi ballplayers are his heroes. But when they lose in the 1941 semifinals, Sandy’s dad calls it a bad omen. Sure enough, in December 1941, Japan bombs Pearl Harbor in the U.S. The Canadian government begins to ban Japanese people from certain areas, moving them to “dormitories” and setting a curfew. Sandy wants to spend time with his father, but as a doctor, his dad is busy, often sneaking out past curfew to work. One night Papa is taken to “where he [is] needed most,” and the family is forced into an internment camp. Life at the camp isn’t easy, and even with some of the Asahi players playing ball there, it just isn’t the same. Trying to understand and find joy again, Sandy struggles with his new reality and relationship with his father. Based on the true experiences of Japanese Canadians and the Vancouver Asahi team, this graphic novel is a glimpse of how their lives were affected by WWII. The end is a bit abrupt, but it’s still an inspiring and sweet look at how baseball helped them through hardship. The illustrations are all in a sepia tone, giving it an antique look and conveying the emotions and struggles. None of the illustrations of their experiences are overly graphic, making it a good introduction to this upsetting topic for middle-grade readers.

An emotional, much-needed historical graphic novel. (afterword, further resources) (Graphic historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5253-0334-0

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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NUMBER THE STARS

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

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

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