,The Dragon in the Bookshop is a new story about grief and finding your voice, with a sprinkling of Polish folklore and a magical, medieval adventure. Waterstones Children’s Book Prize-shortlisted author Ewa Jozefkowicz draws on her personal experience of childhood bereavement and her Polish background to pen a beautifully-told, compassionate story.
Read on for our Review Panel’s thoughts on the book and a guest post in which author Ewa Jozefkowicz talks about the Polish legend behind the story and shares her own favourite books that feature mythical magic…
Book Title: The Dragon in the Bookshop (available here)
Author: Ewa Jozefkowicz & Katy Riddell
Publisher: Zephyr Books
Publication Date: July 2022
Most Suitable for: KS2
‘For every reader there is a character in a book that matches them almost exactly. It’s just a case of finding them.’
This was the belief of Konrad’s father – otherwise known as ‘the book matchmaker.’ But that was ‘before’ – when Konrad spent happy days in the bookshop that his father owned.
Since his father’s unexpected death, Konrad has not spoken. That is until he meets Maya, a free-spirited nature lover, and he begins to open up. Maya is accepting of Konrad’s silence and enjoys having someone to really listen to her, as that is something lacking in her world.
However, when Konrad invites Maya to his family’s bookshop, they are flung into an unexpected adventure. Opening the pages of Konrad’s favourite book of folk tales, they are whisked into the past to an ancient Polish city, under siege by a dangerous dragon.
The pages of the book are now empty. It is up to Konrad and Maya to re-write the story and find a way home. Konrad is certain they need to follow the plot of the story he remembers and destroy the dragon once and for all, but Maya is convinced there must be another way.
When his time comes to face the dragon, Konrad meets his match. But through the battle, both he and Maya find their true voices and through the power of words, more than one wounded soul becomes soothed.
Themes of family, friendship, grief and empathy are woven through this book in abundance and it is both heart-breaking and heart-warming. The book tackles the death of a parent and the subject of grief and is inspired by the personal experiences of the author, which adds to its power and impact. The fast-paced narrative and traditional tale twists make this a fantastic book for a read-aloud in KS2.
Reviewer: Esther Brown
Guest Post: Mythical Magic in Children’s Books
by Ewa Jozefkowicz, author of ,The Dragon in the Bookshop
The Dragon in The Bookshop features a Polish legend about the dragon of Wawel Castle, which my Dad would read to me when I was little. This dragon had made a home for himself in a cave below the castle, had an insatiable appetite and caused widespread fear, mainly because nobody knew how to get rid of him.
I’m a huge fan of folklore and had been toying with the idea of incorporating Polish mythology into my writing for a long time. In my story, I’ve reimagined the legend, as I’ve been fascinated by the Wawel dragon since childhood, and always imagined there was more to him than people realised.
Modern readers are lucky to have access to some great books which feature mythical magic. Below are some that I’ve recently enjoyed:
The House With Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson
Marinka dreams of a normal life, where her house stays somewhere long enough for her to make friends. But her house has chicken legs and moves on without warning. This is a brilliant story of Baba Yaga and the gate between our world and the world of the dead, inspired by Prussian folklore.
The Bird Singers by Eve Wersocki Morris
This is a recent favourite of mine, from a fellow lover of Polish mythology. Layah and her younger sister Izzie have experienced some very peculiar things since their mother dragged them to a rain-soaked cottage in the Lake District. There are murmurs of a shadowed woman in the forest, who may well have evil intentions…
Who Let The God’s Out? by Maz Evans
What I loved most about this brilliantly funny series, is the way that it put mythical Greek gods in modern-day situations. It immediately brings mythology to life for young readers and highlights the comical clash between their egos and the realities of our regular life. After all, who doesn’t want to know how a god would react when having to deal with modern-day gadgets and media?
Aarti and The Blue Gods by Jasbinder Bilan
Aarti lives with her Aunt on a remote Scottish island. Her only comforts are a book of Indian myths full of blue gods, a fox, and a toy rabbit she finds in a locked room. But her wonderful book unlocks the world of local gods which help her escape the troubles of her modern life. I love the way that Jasbinder Bilan wove together mythology and hope, as well as showing the bonds and similarities between different cultures.
,The Dragon in the Bookshop by Ewa Jozefkowicz (front cover illustration by Katy Riddell) is out on 7th July 2022 and will help promote Grief Encounter (,www.griefencounter.org.uk) a wonderful charity that works with children who have lost someone they love.
Grief Encounter has a message for children and young people like Kon. As a charity, they work closely with individuals, families, schools and professionals to offer a way through the anxiety, fear and isolation so often caused by the grief of losing someone close.
Grief Encounter provides immediate support with a FREEPHONE Grieftalk helpline 0808 802 0111 open Mon-Fri 9am-9pm, a live chat via their website or support by emailing [email protected].
Many thanks to Ewa for visiting our blog. Follow along with the other stops on the blog tour for more about the book.
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