Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on January 26, 2016
Genres: Children’s, Middle Grade, Historical Fiction
Pages: 240 Format: ARC Source: Library
This ARC was received by my library department for marketing purposes. This does not affect my opinions in any way.
Kraków, 1939. A million marching soldiers and a thousand barking dogs. This is no place to grow up. Anna Łania is just seven years old when the Germans take her father, a linguistics professor, during their purge of intellectuals in Poland. She’s alone.
And then Anna meets the Swallow Man. He is a mystery, strange and tall, a skilled deceiver with more than a little magic up his sleeve. And when the soldiers in the streets look at him, they see what he wants them to see.
The Swallow Man is not Anna’s father—she knows that very well—but she also knows that, like her father, he’s in danger of being taken, and like her father, he has a gift for languages: Polish, Russian, German, Yiddish, even Bird. When he summons a bright, beautiful swallow down to his hand to stop her from crying, Anna is entranced. She follows him into the wilderness.
Over the course of their travels together, Anna and the Swallow Man will dodge bombs, tame soldiers, and even, despite their better judgment, make a friend. But in a world gone mad, everything can prove dangerous. Even the Swallow Man.
Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit finds Anna alone in Poland in 1939, her father having been taken away, and this little girl left only to wonder what has happened. With a little luck, her path crosses with the Swallow Man, a enigma, wanderer, and teller of stories. For me this book had all the makings of a wonderful story but fell just short of the mark.
I felt like Anna and her Swallow Man’s journey quickly became tiresome. There was a lot of aimless wandering and it showed through in the plot. The addition of Reb Hirschl provided much needed dimension and created an interesting dynamic between Anna and her companion. He was a contrast to the Swallow Man, allowing the reader to understand the scope of the world. Without Hirschl, this book had no direction for me.
For me, there was a lot missing from this book, but my favorite part throughout the entire story was the discussion of language. How we associate a certain language with a certain person, then subsequently relate others to that same person solely based on the words they speak. Language is a strong connective force but it also separates humanity forming boundaries and divisions. Savit’s focus on this was this book’s saving grace.
Overall Anna and the Swallow Man for me was just an okay book. There wasn’t much holding me enthralled. The novel just seemed as lost as Anna and her Swallow Man often were. I did enjoy the writing though, and the focus on language. For children, this book may go over well for a short read with a limited take on World War II.
- To be found is to be gone forever.
- She thought she knew what language was, how it worked, how people pulled in different words out of the air into which they had spoken in order to shape their outlines around them.
- French was not French; it was Monsieur Bouchard. Yiddish was not Yiddish; it was Reb Shmulik. Every word of Armenian that Anna had ever heard reminded her of the face of the little old tatik who always greeted her and her father with small cups of strong, bitter coffee.
- Perhaps it was the sudden softening of his tone–him, a man who was more than a little frightening to her then , towering up there above her, suddenly concerned.
- For all she understood, this was The Way of Things. What one knew did not linger; what one expected disappeared. For a coddled girl of seven, then, Anna had become exceedingly skilled at adaptation. Whatever language someone spoke to her was the language she spoke back.
Do you plan on reading Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit? What are some of your favorite books set in World War II?