New review: Our Castle by the Sea by Lucy Strange

Happy New Year! Here is my first review for 2019 of the highly-anticipated second novel by Lucy Strange. Our Castle by the Sea is set during the second world war, evoking all the danger experienced by those who lived through it. The story is also a celebration of the bonds of family showing despite what we might face, family matters most.

our castle by the sea

Our Castle by the Sea by Lucy Strange 

England is at war. Growing up in a lighthouse, twelve-year-old Pet’s world has been one of storms, secret tunnels and stories about sea monsters.  But now the clifftops are a terrifying battleground, and her family is torn apart.  This is the story of a girl who is small, afraid and unnoticed.  A girl who freezes with fear at the enemy planes ripping through the skies overhead. A girl who is somehow destined to become part of the strange, ancient legend of the Daughters of Stone…..

Our Castle by the Sea is a brilliantly told and thrilling wartime adventure told through the eyes of twelve-year-old Pet, a young girl who lives in a lighthouse with her father, her German-born mother and her older sister, Mags.  Their idyllic life is changed forever when war breaks out and sets off a chain of events none could have foreseen. With Mutti, Pet’s mother, sent to an internment camp, Pa in a permanent state of stress, the police investigating mysterious packages and Mags disappearing at strange hours of the day, Pet is forced to face her fears alone.

The story weaves a startlingly believable tale of the misfortune faced due to their family’s German heritage and the dangerous but important role of a lighthouse keeper in wartime.  The narrative highlights the fate of foreign citizens and wartime internment, childhood evacuation, as well as the trouble caused by traitorous wartime spies. The family bond portrayed is very moving and Pet becomes a force to be reckoned with, overcoming her fears and facing terrible danger, to find the truth about her parents and discover what secrets her sister Mags is keeping. Set against the backdrop of the mysterious legend of the Daughters of Stone, the ancient standing stones that guard the coastline, Our Castle by the Sea is a really gripping read told with great heart.  A perfect book to start your New Year reading with!

I am delighted to be participating in the blog tour this week and hosting a guest post by the author Lucy Strange.  See below for details of the tour starting today!

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Find out more at www.chickenhousebooks.com. 

Our Castle by the Sea is recommended for children aged 9+.

With thanks to Chicken House Books for sending me this book to review.

our castle by the sea

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.

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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.

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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