Book Review: The Puppet Boy of Warsaw
The Puppet Boy of Warsaw by Eva Weaver
This is a beautifully written book that is deeply moving. Set against the very real and difficult period of World War II at it’s very worst – the creation of the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw, through the deportations and to the bitter uprising of the last remaining Jews – it follows the story of Mika, a teenager who finds solace from the troubles in the puppets his grandfather left him along with a coat of many pockets. He becomes known as ‘The Puppet Boy’, bringing smiles to the children in the ghetto, but when Max, a German soldier, discovers him with puppets, things become very dangerous for Mika when he is forced to leave the ghetto to do weekly shows for the Germans who imprison them.
The book is told in three parts – Mika’s story, then the story of German Max after the war, and then a very touching section in modern day that brings their two stories full circle. The author has clearly done a lot of research, and while Mika’s story is entirely fictional, it captures the sights, smells and sounds of the time with a real sense of authority. While many of the events are horrific, Mika’s world of puppets captures the ability of children to escape into a fantasy world, despite the reality of their lives – showing the power of puppets (or art, or music, or books) to lift people’s spirits and repair their souls. Mika is a wonderful character, scared but brave, loyal and caring – and Max, the German who ends up having so much impact on the course of war for Mika, is a complicated and sympathetic villain. I’d highly recommend this thought-provoking and original novel.