The Dragon in the Bookshop
by Ewa Jozefkowicz
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Pub Date 7 Jul 2022 | Archive Date 7 Jul 2022
Head of Zeus, Zephyr
An old Polish city fizzes with fear. The townsfolk are at the mercy of a dragon who lurks in the cave below the castle...
Konrad's dad always used to say, 'There is a character in a book somewhere that matches you almost entirely. It's just a matter of finding them'. Konrad never expected the 'finding' to involve stepping right into a story, and he never expected his dad not to be there with him.
After his dad's death, Konrad stops speaking. Not a word at home or school as the year rolls by. But that begins to change when he meets Maya on the beach he loved to explore with Dad. She doesn't mind his silence. It gives her a chance to be heard, because at home no one seems to notice her. When the pair go on a last visit to Konrad's family bookshop before it's sold, they soon get lost in the pages of Konrad's favourite book of folk tales. Whisked back in time to quest with a dragon, they must find themselves and their voices, as well as a happy end to the story in the book and in real life.
A beautifully told, compassionate story about grief and finding your voice, with a sprinkle of Polish folklore and a magical, medieval adventure from Waterstones-shortlisted Ewa Jozefkowicz.
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 8 members
I whizzed through this book it is such a lovely little story. well written with a compelling story that is infused with polish folklore and legend and has magic woven through it. I loved the story and I loved the characters. I think children will adore this engaging story.
This book was such a sweet & lovely little story. It was a well written, compelling tale that dealt with loss, friendship, family, & plenty of adventure, with of course a dragon as a cherry on the top. I loved how each element was woven beautifully into each other to really draw you into the story. I love that it was based off of polish folklore and mythology with plenty of magic woven throughout it. I loved the story and I loved the characters. My 10 year old son and I found this story very engaging & I can definitely see him reading it again.
I've really enjoyed Ewa Jozefkowicz's contemporary Middle Grade books so when it was announced that her next was going to be a fantasy I was, naturally, rather excited. It's a retelling of the Wawel Dragon, a Polish myth, and two modern children are pulled into a storybook and have to find a way to make the story happen - but in a better way.
The fantasy section of the book is steeped in Polish mythology. There is the "main" myth of the hungry dragon, but there are also lots of other references to other stories and traditions that help build the world of Medieval Kraków. The weight of history and legends, told through offhand references, really does make a world feel real to me, because it means it exists beyond the narrow confines of a book.
A lot of research has clearly gone into the process of manuscript creation. The children find themselves roped into preserving stories by creating new books to replace damaged ones. The process is described so well, full of the little quirks (like pages vs strips for how they handled the paper) that help distinguish the scribe's location.
The contemporary section has a fair bit to say about dinosaurs. There are fossils and a (fake, I think?) professor, as well as discussions about how we "recreate" dinosaurs from incomplete fossil records. Of course, though, dinosaurs and dragons aren't too dissimilar...
The one thing I will say is that it does take a while (relative to book size) for the book to go from contemporary to fantasy - I did check I'd opened the right file at one point! There's a lot of contemporary set up to ensure you know what's going on in Konrad's personal life, the challenges he's facing. It's not until that's all been laid and Maya's been introduced that they get sucked into the book.
The Dragon in the Bookshop took a long time to get going, as the two protagonists' meeting was not that straightforward. There was a prolonged section in the narrative where we discover how Konrad had lost his beloved father and leant to Konrad having issues. It did meander for quite a while as we delved deep into his mindset of Konrad, and at times it was not pretty, especially the way he treated his poor mum.
The introduction of Maya changed the dynamics of the narrative. After their initial meeting, the book kicked into gear, and it was quite an exciting and delightful read.
I liked Maya as a character. She showed grit and determination. Although she is slightly naive at times, she adds a touch of stability to Konrad's life and gives him some purpose, bringing him out of his shell.
The time-travelling scenario was neatly done. Although not exactly a new idea using a book to jump between timelines, the first encounter with the locals was surprising.
The two main protagonists were given the extraordinary task of book copyists for the king. Beginning with cutting the paper and then doing the text and artwork, Konrad and Maya fell into the work as though it was second nature. They were aided and abetted by Teresa, the king's scribe, who had taken them in, cared for them and showed them a little tender affection.
There is not a lot of world-building involved, so you do have to use your imagination a great deal, and I had to keep reminding myself this is a book for children.
The Dragon in the Bookshop is a well-written, well-crafted, and original story. There are wonderfully poignant moments within the narrative, with some thought-proving ones added to the mix.
A small cast of likeable and interesting characters join Konrad and Maya, which obviously includes the Dragon. Konrad as a character was well written and relatable. His private angst was a telling theme early on. Maya, on the other hand, was a perfect antidote for him.
At some point in the book, I would have loved to have seen a little bit of artwork, but that was just me being picky.
This is a medieval magical mystery with some added mayhem. A time-travelling story children and adults will appreciate and admire.
The Dragon in the Bookshop is a good, immersive and fun book to read and well worth a look.🕶
Thank you, NetGalley and Head of Zeus, Zephyr, for the advanced copy.
this was a fun, quick read for me. I liked the characters and settings. It took quite a while to get going, so as a result, i felt a little like the 'main' story where they are sucked into a book world actually felt kind of rushed or at least, not as long as it should have been. despite this, i still really enjoyed it. It was fun, exciting and had a really nice message attached to it!
so i recommend this, probably more suitable for younger readers, maybe 8 yr olds. but the long opening may catch them out.
This is an enchanting time travel tale of Maya and Konrad. The story delighted both the children and myself. It is a story of grief and loss but also hope, of helping others to be reunited with loved ones. It truly is a delightfully heartwarming tale.
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