I adore Ewa Jozefkowicz's books and 'The Dragon in the Bookshop' (out July 2022) is quite possibly her best yet. Deeply personal, this magical story-within-a-story has a glowing heart with a deep sense of compassion and yearning which again marks Ewa Jozefkowicz out as a terrific storyteller. This isn't just a tale about dragons, this is about how we find our voice to tell others what we all hold in the fire of our hearts, which we then leave as little traces in the stories we tell.
After his dad's death, Konrad stops speaking, feeling as if he lives in a parallel universe where nothing feels right anymore. But when he meets a young girl Maya on the beach, everything begins to change. She allows Konrad to be himself and together they enjoy exploring the rock pools, just as Konrad did with his dad. Feeling braver, Konrad takes her to his family bookshop before it's sold. Together they are whisked back in time in the pages of a magical book of Polish folktales that Konrad's dad had read to him many times. In a medieval Krakow, Konrad and Maya must tame a dragon by finding the courage to find themselves and find the power of their own voices...
'The Dragon in the Bookshop' is such a beautiful book. Enchanting and empathetic, it sensitively explores the darkness of grief and the hope of finding the spark of light in the world again. As with 'Girl 38' or the 'Key to Finding Jack', Ewa Jozefkowicz does this through the conceit of a story-within-a-story, although here it is much more direct as Konrad and Maya are physically transported into the pages of Polish folklore. This brings much more of a sense of immediacy and magic with medieval Krakow vividly described through a veil of smoke and menace. But the result is the same: the author showing us how people can change through the power of storytelling. 'For every reader there is a character that matches them almost exactly. It's just a case of finding them.' I loved Konrad, and the way in which his grief is portrayed is both raw and real - Jozefkowicz drawing upon her own personal experiences with a power and intimacy that leaves parts of her within the pages. Maya is such an endearing character; she feels fresh and light and a wonderful counterbalance to Konrad too.
I highly recommend this book. It is magical because it is about the power of storytelling, of myth-making, and the deeply felt meaning that resonates from such tales. Brilliant!
Thanks to Fritha Lindqvist and Zephyr Books for my proof copy to review.