I have read and loved all of Ewa’s books, so I am very excited to be part of the Blog Tour today for her latest book, The Dragon in the Bookshop, published on 7th July.
Thank you so much to Fritha Lindqvist and Zephyr Books for my invitation, and to Ewa for sharing the following piece, sharing books that she has loved over the years, which have a special healing power. I have followed Ewa’s piece with my Review of this wonderful story.
The Dragon in the Bookshop features a dragon, a dinosaur, a lizard-loving girl and an old lady who rescues books and stores them in a cathedral turret. But it’s mostly a story about Kon, a twelve-year-old boy who is struggling after the loss of his dad. Kon’s experience is largely based on my own, as my own dad passed away when I was at secondary school.
At the time, I was lucky enough to have an incredible group of supportive friends, and a couple of teachers who went out of their way to check in on me. But I didn’t know anyone who had gone through the same experience as me. Here’s where books played a big part, because thanks to them I met many wonderful characters who I could empathise with. Below is a list of just some of the books I’ve loved over the years, which have a special healing power. It’s by no means an exhaustive list, and it’s one that I add to all the time!
Ostrich Boys by Keith Gray
Blake, Kenny, Sim and Ross are best mates. But one day, Ross is killed in a car accident and his friends are in pieces. At Ross’ funeral, they feel utterly ignored and they become furious with everyone who they feel hadn’t behaved well towards their friend. So they steal Ross’ ashes and they take him to Ross in Scotland, where they know their friend always wanted to go. Brilliantly moving and funny.
Skellig by David Almond
A beautiful story of hope in unlikely places. With a magical old man at its centre. When Michael moves to his new house and his baby sister falls ill, he begins to feel helpless. But then when he goes out to the old rickety garage in his garden, he finds a mysterious man living beneath the cobwebs and surviving on flies and takeaways. From that moment on, his world changes.
The Illustrated Mum by Jacqueline Wilson
Dolphin and Star live with their mum Marigold, who is exciting and unpredictable. Living with her often wild moods can be hard, and Dolphin begins to wonder whether she needs to look for someone who might provide a more stable home. She knows nothing about her dad (who is different from her older sister’s) but she makes it her mission to find him. A beautiful story about families, mental illness, hope and survival.
When The Sky Falls by Phil Earle
This is a recent favourite. A story of wartime difficulties, of unlikely friendships and the powerful bond between human and animal. Joseph is a troubled boy sent away by his grandmother to London to stay with her stern friend, Mrs. Farelly, the keeper of the local zoo. Joseph forms a close bond with Adonis, the only remaining gorilla at the zoo. The friendship helps him deal with many difficulties in his life, including the fact that his mum has abandoned him.
I would definitely recommend these to readers of all ages!
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 have 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 provide 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Dragon in the Bookshop is a heartfelt and tenderly written story that weaves together legend and reality in a magical adventure about grief, friendship and finding your voice when you are lost.
Whilst exploring the Kent coastline, Konrad (Kon) finds a large fossilised footprint in the rock. His initial bubble of excitement in wanting to share his discovery with his dad is burst when he remembers that his dad has died, and the pain of his loss comes flooding back. There are some really poignant moments as Kon reminisces about adventures with his dad who called him his ‘intrepid explorer’ interspersed with the depth of his grief.
When Kon goes back to explore the headland after school, he meets Maya, who has moved to the area with her conservationist dad. For the first time since the day after his father’s death over five months before, Kon finds his voice, and shares his father’s love of Polish legends with her. This elicits an invitation to his father’s bookshop, A Likely Story, a place he has been unable to visit since his father’s death and which his mother may well have to sell.
As Kon begins to rediscover the magic of the bookshop with Maya, he finds a pile of books that his mum has left for him and, amongst them, is a beautiful, old book. As he reads, Kon and Maya find themselves no longer in the bookshop, but in the middle of a legend, a legend where a dragon is terrorising the medieval town of Kraków, living in a cave beneath Wawel Castle. Will the children find the courage to change the legend, to find their voices, and to hope for a return to happiness?
I loved this touching story, both poignant and warm, which deals with the different stages of grief with such sensitivity and honesty. I thought that the use of the dragon legend to explore loss, and the range of feelings that this can engender from anger and fear to sadness and loneliness, was perfectly portrayed as was the sense of hope and reconnection with family and friends.
Both Kon and Maya have found their way into my heart. Each is just what the other needs. Maya has not been part of Kon’s life before he lost his father, and he feels able to talk to her, perhaps because she has no expectations of what his life was like before. She is kind and empathetic, but is lonely as she has moved around with her family not making her own connections. Kon is struggling to cope with the loss of his father who he clearly adored and with whom he had a shared love of beach exploration and stories. Kon’s grief is trapped inside, like his voice, and he pushes others away from him as he tries to deal with his feelings of anger, guilt and pain. He shows great courage and strength in finding a way back to a life without his father, where he can enjoy cherished memories and allow others back into his life as he moves forward.
I also loved how this story is an ode to the magic of stories and bookshops. I absolutely believe in the power of a great story to allow us to empathise, to understand ourselves and to find strength in the courage of others. I just have to include a couple of my favourite bookish quotes:
“You know, Kon, I believe that for every reader there is a character in a book somewhere that matches them almost exactly. It’s just a case of finding them.”
“… in books I’d travelled all over the globe and into the past and the future too. For intrepid explorers, books are stepping stones to so many places …”
The Dragon in the Bookshop is a beautifully poignant and hopeful allegory of grief, healing and reconnection, and a heartfelt ode to the magic of stories. A wonderful adventure for children of 9+.
Do check out these other stops on the Blog Tour: