I am delighted to be kicking off the blog tour to mark publication of Ewa Jozefkowicz’s latest novel for children, The Dragon in the Bookshop. This moving story is inspired by the author’s own personal experience of childhood bereavement and told with a tender understanding. Ewa Josefkowicz weaves together a contemporary tale of grief and a traditional Polish legend in a book that will reassure and encourage young readers.
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.” After his Dad dies suddenly Konrad stops talking completely and finds comfort in the things they shared together such as exploring the beach and reading favourite stories. Through these things Kon feels just a little closer to the father he misses so much, however still he remains silent. One day at the beach he meets Maya who is kind and friendly and does not mind his quietness. Together the two new friends visit the family bookshop Kon’s Dad loved so much before it is finally closed. Whilst reading a book together they are whisked back in time and find themselves quite literally ‘lost in a book’ and on a quest to defeat a dragon and save a town. This adventure will encourage Konrad and Maya to discover what is most important to them, find their voices and pursue a happy ending in both the book and real life.
Ewa Jozefkowicz’s writing style is thoughtful and compassionate bringing a poignancy to this combination of magical adventure and exploration of grief. The importance of stories, and in particular the sharing of stories, is threaded thought the plot and I find it touching how this both comforts and guides our two young characters. The folklore element is well done and the story within the story gives this an appeal to those who enjoy books containing time slips or portals to other worlds. Yet this does not feel like a fantasy to me rather more like a spiritually comforting read. As a reader you are left with the impression that those we have loved and lost are not really lost at all but with us through the things we have shared together and perhaps most particularly in the stories we enjoyed together.
The Dragon in the Bookshop contains excitement and bravery, grief and loss, friendship and family and two wonderful protagonists in Konrad and Maya. A winning mix of magic, adventure and thoughtfulness this is a story that will appeal to many and raise the profile of Grief Encounter, a charity close to the author’s heart.
Ewa has written a lovely inspirational piece about charity Grief Encounter and why she wanted to support their work and write The Dragon in the Bookshop which I am sharing below:
The Dragon in the Bookshop is a book about many things – a dragon, a dinosaur, a yellow-bellied lizard, a girl who speaks to it in Portuguese, and a peculiar old lady who lives in a cathedral turret and has mysterious holes in her sleeves. But it’s also a book about grief and the importance of having the right people around you to help find yourself again.
It’s been many years since I’d lost my dad while 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, nor anyone who I could regularly talk to outside of the school and family setting. I felt keenly that I needed more support, but I wasn’t even sure what to ask for.
At intervals throughout my adult life, I’ve found myself experiencing periods of grief which often took me by surprise. They didn’t seem to be triggered by anything in particular and they left me questioning why this was happening so many years after my dad’s death. It took me a long time to realise it was because I hadn’t dealt with it effectively at the time.
I found out about the brilliant work of Grief Encounter when I was already in my mid-twenties. For me, it was immediately obvious that their work forms that crucial, missing piece of support. It provides counselling, a Grieftalk helpline, workshops, retreats, and family days. And what’s perhaps most important – it connects people who have been through similar experiences.
When I started to write The Dragon in the Bookshop, which is about a boy called Kon who loses his dad, I wanted to raise awareness for Grief Encounter through my book. Why? Because I want every reader to know about the charity’s existence – it just might be that invaluable source of support for them or someone they know.
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.
I should like to thank Ewa Jozefkowicz, Fritha Lindqvist and Zephyr Books for their help in preparing this blog post. Do please follow the rest of the tour to find out more about this kind and thoughtful story.