Have you ever read The Boy in the Striped Pajamas? John Boyne was able to show one boy’s view of WWII in a way that I’d never seen done before or since until now.
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.
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.
It’s heartbreaking to think of a child all alone on the streets of Krakow in 1939. Anna is plucky and smart, but that is no defense against the horrors of the time, doesn’t give her a place to sleep or food in her belly, and it certainly doesn’t make what’s going on around her any easier to understand. The Swallow Man attempts to teach her how to survive; to cross borders and streams, to seem friendly, not needy and how to best deal with the Wolves (German soldiers) and the Bears (Russian soldiers).
He’s irascible and it often seems that he’s lost that beautiful touch with humanity that as a child, Anna still holds dear, but he’s also dependable in a world that gives Anna nothing else she can depend on. He’s an anti-hero. He’s a survivor. That comes at a cost and Anna may be the one that has to pay it.
Anna and the Swallow Man broke my heart and mended it over and over. It made me grateful for the time and place that I came into the world and angry at the time period she and the real children of the time grew up in. It made me laugh. I cried. It made me want to give up on humanity and then quickly reminded me that not all of us are bad; that we may have quirks and none of us are perfect, but there are still a fair amount of people that have their heart in the right place.
As of right now, I’ve read 335 books this year. This one is my favorite.
Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit
- Age Range: 12 and up
- Grade Level: 7 and up
- Hardcover: 240 pages
- Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (January 26, 2016)
- ISBN-10: 0553513346
- ISBN-13: 978-0553513349
I’m grateful to the great folks at Penguin Random House for asking me to be apart of their pre-pub date push for this book.