Rachel and Robert Klein live with their parents and live normal lives; that is, until the dictator Charles Malstain invades their homeland and bans children from going to school and even going out. When their librarian father is sent to a prison camp, for not handing over a very special book to the secret police, their lives change dramatically. Firstly, their mother dies and then they are sent to an orphanage. It is Robert, who is two years older than his sister, who decides to try and find their father and help him escape. Before he knows it, he is involved in a plot to kill Charles Malstain and in a search for the mysterious ‘Book of Stolen Dreams’; the very book that his father would not hand over to the authorities. Meanwhile, Rachel has escaped from the home and is on the trail of her brother. Through a series of adventures and times of real danger the children must attempt to find each other, solve the mystery of the book and perhaps even save their homeland.
This is a truly magnificent story, which although it has elements of magic and make-believe, also brings to mind the brutal dictatorships in Germany and Russia during the 1930s. There is a real sense of horror at the gradual changes that are made to society and the way that most of the population is drawn into accepting the inevitable. The two children are remarkable in their desire to solve the mystery of the book and find their father. They face up to a massive range of challenges and gradually learn who they can trust and who is a possible danger. This is one of my favourite books of the year so far; it combines a real sense of danger and horror, with just the right amount of fantasy and hope. The target audience of KS2 and KS3 will find it exhilarating and challenging at the same time.