New review: The Dollmaker of Krakow by R.M.Romero

I was instantly drawn to The Dollmaker of Krakow, a story that weaves together magic, folklore and history.  It was always going to be a challenging read given the time period and it was indeed very moving.  An impressive debut novel for ages 9+, it was also utterly unique, full of imagination and heart.  This, coupled with the amazing artwork throughout, created a story that stays with you and one that I would highly recommend.

doll maker

The Dollmaker of Krakow by R M Romero illustrated by Tomislav Tomic

Krakow, Poland, 1939. Magic brings a little doll named Karolina to life in a toyshop. She becomes friends with the gentle, broken-hearted Dollmaker who owns the shop.  When the darkness of the Nazi occupation sweeps over the city, Karolina and the Dollmaker must use their magic to save their Jewish friends from a terrible danger, no matter what the risks.

Karolina comes from The Land of the Dolls, brought to life in the Dollmaker’s shop by the kind wind, who helps her escape from her own war torn land.  For The Land of the Dolls has been invaded by rats, who do nothing more than destroy everything Karolina has ever known and loved –even her beautiful home where she sews wishes into the clothes of her customers. So Karolina is heart-broken and it is the Dollmaker’s kindness that repairs her heart. And in so doing Karolina helps the Dollmaker himself recover and rediscover his magic, having been plagued with sadness for many years. Together, Karolina and the Dollmaker find friendship not just with each other, but with their Jewish neighbours Rena and her father Jozef. It is only as the Nazi occupation of Krakow takes over their way of life that they all realise the danger they are in, especially when a Nazi commandant discovers their secret.

The Dollmaker of Krakow is a moving and terribly sad story of the holocaust. Beautifully written and full of folk lore, there is a timeless quality to it. I loved the interspersing of the fables from the Land of the Dolls and the parallels this drew with what happens in the ‘real’ world. It depicts the realities of war in a way even young readers will understand. The friendship between Karolina and the Dollmaker is beautiful and their courage and bravery in helping the Trzmiels is inspiring. The magical realism is original and brilliantly described, as is the Dollmaker’s reluctance to believe his own power – until he realises he can use it to save his friends.

I will be honest I wasn’t expecting the ending at first but as soon as I realised what was happening it seemed inevitable. As ever with stories about the holocaust, you just cannot fathom man’s inhumanity to man and the monstrous treatment of the Jews and many others by the Nazis. This story sheds light on what it was like to be not only ‘occupied’ but have your whole way of life obliterated – even down to the changing of Polish street names to be ‘German’. The Nazi commandant embodies much that is hateful and represents the cruelty of the regime in chilling fashion.

At the end of the book there is a chronology of the real events of World War 2 and a note from the author R.M.Romero, where she gives some insight into why she wrote the story.  She ends with ‘Please, don’t let it happen again’. In a world where intolerance, prejudice and injustice are still rife, The Dollmaker of Krakow reminds us that bravery and kindness, love and friendship can overcome adversity and that we always have a choice.

doll maker

Find out more www.rmromero.com and www.walker.co.uk

 I borrowed this book from the library. Why not check out your local library today and see what’s new?! #loveourlibraries #saveourlibraries

 

New reviews: great reads for Spring!

Since starting the New Year as a ‘commuter’ many friends ask me how can I stand it?! Thankfully as a reader, I now have a whole lot more time to read – the perfect activity when you’re stuck on a train, even when there’s delays or no seats! So here’s just three of the six great books I’ve read over the last two weeks (more review to come!):

9781408877753

I Swapped My Brother on the Internet by Jo Simmons

I can get a new brother? On the internet?’ Jonny muttered. `Oh sweet mangoes of heaven!’ Everyone has dreamed of being able to get rid of their brother or sister at one time or another – but for Jonny, the dream is about to become a reality with SiblingSwap.com! What could be better than someone awesome to replace Ted, Jonny’s obnoxious older brother. But finding the perfect brother isn’t easy, as Jonny discovers when Sibling Swap sends him a line of increasingly bizarre replacements: first a merboy, then a brother raised by meerkats, and then the ghost of Henry the Eighth! What’s coming next?! Suddenly old Ted isn’t looking so bad. But can Jonny ever get him back?

I’m sure many of us have been there – wishing we could somehow magically change our brother or sister who is driving us mad! But perhaps we haven’t all had our wish come true like Jonny. I Swapped My Brother on the Internet is a brilliantly funny tale of getting more than you bargained for – especially when using the internet – and finding out the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. With a thoroughly likeable hero in Jonny and a whole host of hilarious characters, readers will laugh out loud as Jonny works his way through the Sibling Swap replacements – none of whom quite live up to his expectations.  I particularly enjoyed Henry VII’s ghost as a potential new sibling!! Fast paced and full of gags (anyone heard of the Hanging Pants of Doom?!) and with fun, fantastic and lively illustrations, I Swapped My Brother on the Internet is a great read for middle grade children.  And with the added bonus of a positive message about not taking your sibling for granted, this could the answer to solving some of those sibling arguments!

9781408877753

I Swapped My Brother on the Internet is published Bloomsbury.

Find out more www.bloomsbury.com and www.nathanreedillustration.com

A Taxonomy of Love by Rachael Allen

The moment Spencer meets Hope the summer before seventh g34227670rade, it’s . . . something at first sight. He knows she’s special, possibly even magical. The pair becomes fast friends, climbing trees and planning world travels. After years of being outshone by his older brother and teased because of his Tourette’s syndrome, Spencer finally feels like he belongs. But as Hope and Spencer get older and life gets messier, the clear label of “friend” gets messier, too. Through sibling feuds and family tragedies, new relationships and broken hearts, the two grow together and apart, and Spencer, an aspiring scientist, tries to map it all out using his trusty system of taxonomy. He wants to identify and classify their relationship, but in the end, he finds that life doesn’t always fit into easy-to-manage boxes, and it’s this messy complexity that makes life so rich and beautiful.

A totally enjoyable and at times very moving YA story of friendship, romance, love, family, teenage angst, loss and growing up.  A Taxonomy of Love covers a multitude of experiences reflecting the many and varied struggles that shape our lives.  Spencer is a brave character whose struggles with Tourette’s are well portrayed, creating instant empathy and giving the reader an insight into living with a neurological condition. I loved his use of taxonomy to try and make sense of things. Hope has a wonderful zest for life, which is abruptly altered by unexpected tragedy. Her subsequent self-destruct is painful to observe.   The ‘Will they? Won’t they? thread keeps you hooked – there is joy amidst the heartache and I loved the ending (no spoilers!). Through prose, letters and text conversations over six years, A Taxonomy of Love brings to life the relationship between the two protagonists, Spencer and Hope and their wider family relationships, creating people you care about, are rooting for and feel like you really know.

34227670

A Taxonomy of Love is published by Abrams and Chronicle.

Find out more  rachaelallenwrites.blogspot.co.uk and www.abramsandchronicle.co.uk

 

ELOISE-final-300x0-c-default

 

Eloise Undercover by Sarah Baker

The door to the library banged open. I looked around for a place to hide, but it was too late. An angry German voice barked an order. Boots clicked on the wooden floor of the corridor as he shouted at someone behind him. He there was a terrible silence. He was here.

It’s 1944 in Nazi-Occupied France.  Eloise’s world is in turmoil and her father is missing. In a world at war who can she trust? What secrets will she discover in the search for her father?

Eloise Undercover is a thrilling middle grade tale of survival, daring deeds and above all, hope in dark times. Living under Nazi occupation brings with it the stark realities of the war; these are dealt with in an age appropriate way, whilst not being made light of. The story features the fantastic location of Maison de Noyer from Sarah Baker’s previous novel Through the Mirror Door (see my review here) which I thought really clever; I love the idea of a house experiencing so much history through the ages. Twelve year old Eloise is a wonderful heroine who has a huge amount of courage and determination. With her father and friends gone, Eloise’s grandmother Amma is the only person left to care for her; but Amma has secrets of her own. Once Eloise uncovers the truth behind her father’s disappearance – that he was in fact part of the resistance – she insists she too can help fight against the Nazis and the adventures begin in earnest. With edge-of-your-seat action, clever plot twists and a cast of characters who embody both the brave and cruel sides of war, Eloise Undercover is a really great read, bringing history to life and reminding us of the importance of hope, trust and friendship.

ELOISE-final-300x0-c-default

Eloise Undercover is published by Catnip Publishing.

Find out more www.bysarahbaker.com and www.bouncemarketing.co.uk

With thanks to Bloomsbury, Abrams and Chronicle and Catnip for sending me these books to review.

Winter wonderland….. 5 sleeps to go!

ww1 books

Two more lovely picture books join the winter wonderland line up , with jut under a week to go until the big day! A crazy canine countdown and a magical journey to celebrate family at Christmas time.

 

 

dos1

The Twelve Dogs of Christmas by Alison Ritchie and Marisa Morea

A little puppy is caught up in the countdown to Christmas as dogs of all manner, shape and sizes ‘help’ to get everything ready. From choosing the tree, to baking cakes, to running off with festive treats, the dogs are having a wonderful time.  With Chihuahuas, Retrievers, Scottie dogs and Dalmatians there’s a dog for every person – and a task for every dog!

dogs 1

A great picture book for all dog lovers this is a lovely rhyming treat, reflecting on the fabulous chaos of getting ready for Christmas.  It captures the fun, excitement and just how much we can all get carried away!  Taking inspiration from the traditional Twelve Days of Christmas, this would be a great book to read aloud.  There’s lots to see with lively and colourful illustrations, bringing to life all the different festive traditions from decorating the tree to wrapping presents to preparing food. With lots of excited little ones counting down to Christmas, it’s the perfect time to share this story.

Find out more at www.marisamorea.com and www.simonandschuster.co.uk

 

reindeer 1

Last Stop on the Reindeer Express by Maudie Powell-Tuck and Karl James Mountford

A young girl, Mia, misses her Daddy as Christmas approaches and even the sights and sounds at the Christmas market don’t make her feel more festive.  Mia can’t get the Christmas card she has made him delivered on time, but when she discovers a magical post box that leads her to the Reindeer Express, it seems her Christmas wish may come true.  Mia is taken by a magical reindeer on a fantastic journey over land and sea to meet a very special person and deliver her card!  When Mia has to leave her father the sky is filled with other children on their own reindeer and she understands she is not the only one missing a family member.  This helps Mia and whilst her Daddy can’t spend Christmas at home, she discovers she is brave enough to be without him.

reindeer 2

This is a beautiful book full of heart-warming, magical illustrations with a lovely message about families at Christmas time.  A simple narrative that even young children will relate to conveys the story, with the added magic and wonder of the festive season. Whilst we can’t always be with all of our loved ones at Christmas, knowing we’re not alone makes it easier and we can still enjoy celebrating.  With lots of lovely illustrations to look at and lift the flaps and cut-outs, Last Stop on the Reindeer Express celebrates Christmas and family perfectly.

Find out more www.karljamesmountford.com and littletiger.co.uk/authors

 

With thanks to Simon and Schuster and Little Tiger Press for sending me these books to review.

ww1 books

 

 

 

Winter wonderland…..13 sleeps to go!

ww1 books

Looking for some festive cheer on a damp winter’s day? Look no further than these two gorgeous rhyming stories from Nosy Crow, which are sure to put a smile on your face.  Each one comes with a free Stories aloud smartphone audio book, so they can be enjoyed again and again even if you’re on the move, so quite handy for Christmas travels!

 

Oliver-Elephant-284475-1

Oliver Elephant by Lou Peacock, illustrated by Helen Stephens

Noah is going Christmas shopping with his Mummy and baby sister, Evie-May.  He takes Oliver Elephant with him to help and has a wonderful time playing all around the store while Mummy chooses presents.  When it’s time to go, after a special treat of a nice piece of cake, Oliver Elephant is nowhere to be seen! Noah and Mummy look everywhere, but it’s baby sister Evie-May who finds the missing Elephant. And they even remember to get the Christmas star for the tree – thank goodness for that!

oliver elephant 2

Young readers are bound to enjoy this festive story which celebrates the everyday life of little ones at Christmas time.

oliver elephant 1

The lovely rhyming narrative and gorgeous illustrations capture the magic and busyness of festive shopping, the mishaps that can occur and the love that children have for their family – and their soft toys! A real treat to read aloud, Oliver Elephant is a perfect bedtime story for Christmas.

 

The-Princess-and-the-Christmas-Rescue-72652-1

The Princess and the Christmas Rescue by Caryl Hart, illustrated by Sarah Warburton

Princess Eliza loves to invent things, but her parents the King and Queen want her to do something more ‘Princess-like’ and find a friend to play with. So Princess Eliza tries her best, but no amount of frog kissing, making gingerbread or waiting for a Prince to rescue her seems to work! Soon she discovers she’s not the only one in need and sets about using her brilliant inventions to help none other than Santa and his elves. Before she knows it, Princess Eliza has made a whole workshop of friends and helped save Christmas. What could be better than that?!

princess 2

 

This is an absolute festive delight!  The rhyming narrative skips through this charming story with amusing references to well- known fairy tales. Princess Eliza is a wonderful, industrious heroine who I’m sure anyone who’s ever enjoyed making things will identify with.

princess 3

Lovely, bright and detailed illustrations bring to life the magical workshop and all it’s inhabitants and of course, the wonder of Christmas!  Another fantastic book to read aloud that will have young readers reaching for their craft box.

 

Find out more at  www.helenstephens.com/

www.carylhart.com and http://sarahwarburton.blogspot.co.uk

With thanks to Nosy Crow for sending me these books to review.

ww1 books

 

 

 

 

Winter wonderland….18 sleeps to go!

ww1 books

Two very different animals feature in our next winter wonderland installment. Whilst not strictly festive (apart from the snow!), both books have wonderful themes of being brave and celebrating friendship and would make lovely gifts at Christmas time!

 

 

222dfddfbd9905ddb3e9e80821c4b64d-wpcf_385x468

Don’t Leap, Larry! by John Briggs, illustrated by Nicola Slater

You can’t help but fall a little in love with Larry the lemming.  He is bold and fearless and unlike his fellow lemmings, loves to be different and think for himself.  From going sledging with the puffins to choosing his own very brilliant name (everyone else is just called lemming!) he stands out from the crowd. So much so in fact he decides to see if he’ll fit in better with another group of animals – but nothing works – especially not the polar bears!  Finally, Larry returns home only to discover he can help his fellow lemmings think for themselves just like he does.

larry

larry 3

This is a gorgeous story. Funny and heart-warming with a few thrills and spills to boot, it will have all readers cheering for Larry and eventually, the other lemmings too. Brilliantly drawn by Nicola Slater, it’s a joyful story with a wonderful message about being brave, standing out from the crowd and not worrying about thinking differently.

Find out more at www.johnbriggsbooks.net and www.goodillustration.com

Published by Pavilion Books 

 

the-snow-lion-9781471162237_hr.jpg

 

The Snow Lion by Jim Helmore and Richard Jones

This is a lovely tale about a little girl who needs a friend and some courage. Who better to help her than The Snow Lion? Caro and her mum have moved home and Caro is just a little bit lost in her new surroundings of bare white walls and no one to play with. As if by magic, a beautiful big white lion appears and soon Caro has made a new friend with whom she can play all day!  And not only does he stop her from being lonely, the Snow Lion helps her find the courage to go outside and make new friends. As the gentle narrative unfolds, Caro’s new home isn’t so lonely anymore; it’s filled with colour – and friends! The Snow Lion quietly leaves but Caro will always know where to look for him…

thesnowlion3

Text and wonderful illustrations come together perfectly to create a charmingly touching story young readers will want to visit again and again.  I loved the beautifully described friendship between the Snow Lion and Caro, and how he gently and ever so kindly encourages her to be brave. It’s reassuring to know that sometimes we all need a little comfort and how it’s very often finding a friend in unexpected places that can be just the thing!

Find out more www.stripyhorse.com and www.paintedmouse.com

Published by Simon & Schuster

 

 

With thanks to Pavilion Books and Simon & Schuster for sending me these books to review!

ww1 books

 

 

 

 

Winter wonderland…20 sleeps till Christmas!

ww1 books

With only twenty sleeps to go till Christmas Day, it’s really starting to feel festive! For the next few weeks in the run up to Christmas I’ll be featuring some gorgeous wintry and festive stories on the blog. Today we’re exploring some snowy landscapes!

download (1)

Up and Down: A Walk in the Countryside with Nosy Crow and The National Trust, beautifully illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw, takes young readers on a walk through a snow covered landscape introducing them to the idea of opposites.

FullSizeRender (003)

Two little walkers explore the woods and discover ‘up and down’, near and far and many other ‘opposites’, all the while enjoying getting close to nature.

FullSizeRender

Young readers will love to spot the various animals who live in the woods and all manner of festive creatures. There’s even a snowman!  This is a great addition to the A Walk in the Countryside board book series and will have everyone wishing for snow!

Find out more at www.rosalindbeardshaw.com

9781910646311_Little_Hazelnut_820x

Another wintry landscape is stunningly brought to life in this beautiful exploration of winter; Little Hazelnut by Anne-Florence Lemasson and Dominique Ehrhard. I literally gasped when I opened this book – there’s something utterly magical about pop-up books.  Books like this make me love them even more! Little Hazelnut takes the reader on a journey with a variety of animals and birds venturing into the garden during winter.

Each page features a different animal pop up, with a charming narrative capturing the variety of life that appears in a garden in winter. The blue-tit is my favourite – just gorgeous! Simple but detailed, the artwork shows even the animals’ footprints as they navigate the snowy landscape. Little Hazelnut is an absolute delight and would make a lovely gift at Christmas time.

Find out more at Old Barn Books.

 

With thanks to Nosy Crow and Old Barn Books for sending me these books to review.

ww1 books

 

New reviews: Beautiful picture books to warm the heart..!

 

What could be better on a cold winter’s day than two beautiful picture books to warm the heart?  Old Barn Books publish some stunning titles and these two are no exception, both having been nominated for the 2018 Kate Greenaway Medal.  They would make lovely gifts for little ones and budding readers to enjoy.

 

9781910646342_Pea_Pod_Lullaby_1024x1024

Pea Pod Lullaby by Glenda Millard illustrated by Stephen Michael King.

This is a beautiful lyrical lullaby putting into a very few words just how important we can be to each other, especially during times of great need. A family – mother, baby, boy and dog – are escaping danger across the sea in a tiny boat, through wind and rain.

Pea_Pod_Lullaby_9781910646342_spd_1_1024x1024

During their journey they come across a stranded polar bear, who too needs help. Together they cross the ocean and eventually both the family and the polar bear find a place of safety.

Pea_Pod_Lullaby_9781910646342_spd_2_1024x1024

The stunning illustrations depict the many wondrous ways we can help each other – shelter, reassurance, food, light, acceptance, love.  The words are perfectly and lovingly placed to appear just at the right moment as your eyes travel over the pages. Pea Pod Lullaby is a wonderful example of how words and pictures can effortlessly communicate a truly heartfelt message – a message that can speak to any and every situation where we might find ourselves in need.

9781760293642

Storm Whale by Sarah Brennan illustrated by Jane Tanner

A beautifully illustrated exhilarating tale, Storm Whale tells of three sisters who visit the beach one windy day and find a whale washed up on the shore.  Their family day at the seaside is transformed; they battle the wind and waves all day to save the whale seemingly to no avail. As night closes in, they have no choice but to return home.  In the morning they rush to the beach only to find no sign of the stranded whale….for with their help and the power of the storm, he has returned to the sea.

9781760293642-3

The poetic narrative in Storm Whale reads like an ancient tale and captures the enormity of the task in front of the girls, from which they do not falter. Amazing scenic illustrations, each like a canvas in its own right, bring to life the wildness of the sea, the sound of the wind, the awe of waves and the bravery of the three sisters.

9781760293642-1

There is something other worldly about the sea and the creatures who live in it and Storm Whale creates a wonderful connection between ‘our’ world and theirs.   It also depicts a sense of family and warmth between the sisters which I loved.  Despite the danger and the incredible force of nature, their bravery and determination wins through, showing how even though a problem may seem insurmountable it is possible to make a difference.

Both of these picture books would be a wonderful addition to any bookshelf to be enjoyed by readers young and old!

With thanks to Old Barn Books for sending me these books to review.

Find out more at: 

https://sarahbrennanblog.com/category/storm-whale/

http://www.janetanner.com.au/Home.html

https://glendamillard.com/

https://www.stephenmichaelking.com/books/