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  1 Anna and the Swallow Man
Author: Savit, Gavriel
Click for Large Image
Class: Fiction
Age: 12-19
Language: English
Demand: Moderate
LC: PZ7.1
Grade: 7-12
ISBN-13: 9780553513349
LCCN: 2014034472
Imprint: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publisher: Random House
Pub Date: 01/26/2016
Availability: Available
List: $17.99
Physical Description: 232 pages ; 22 cm H 8.56", W 5.69", D 0.88", 0.7625 lbs.
LC Series:
Brodart Sources: Brodart's Common Core Selections
Brodart's For Youth Interest Titles
Brodart's For Youth Interest: Popular
Brodart's Insight Catalog: Teen
Brodart's TOP Young Adult Titles
Brodart's YA Reads for Adults
Bibliographies: Best Children's Books of the Year
New York Times Bestsellers List
New York Times Bestsellers: Children's Middle Grade and Young Adult Books
Senior High Core Collection, 20th ed.
Texas Tayshas Reading List
Awards: BCCB Blue Ribbons
BCCB Starred Reviews
Cooperative Children's Book Center Choices
Horn Book Guide Titles, Rated 1 - 4
Horn Book Starred Reviews
Indies Choice/E.B. White Read-Aloud Book Award Winners and Honors
National Jewish Book Award Winners
Publishers Weekly Annual Best Books Selections
Publishers Weekly Starred Reviews
Sydney Taylor Book Award Winners
VOYA's 5Q Picks
Starred Reviews: Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
Horn Book
Publishers Weekly
VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates Magazine)
TIPS Subjects: Historical Fiction
Eastern Europe
BISAC Subjects: YOUNG ADULT FICTION / Historical / Holocaust
YOUNG ADULT FICTION / Family / Orphans & Foster Homes
YOUNG ADULT FICTION / People & Places / Europe
LC Subjects: Poland, History, Occupation, 1939-1945, Fiction
Poland, History, Occupation, 1939-1945, Juvenile fiction
Survival, Fiction
Survival, Juvenile fiction
World War, 1939-1945, Poland, Fiction
World War, 1939-1945, Poland, Juvenile fiction
SEARS Subjects: Poland, History, Occupation, 1939-1945, Fiction
Survival skills, Fiction
World War, 1939-1945, Poland, Fiction
Reading Programs: Accelerated Reader Level: 7.1 , Points: 10.0
Lexile Level: 1160
Reading Counts Level: 11 , Points: 16.0
Brodart's TOP Young Adult Titles | 01/01/2016
Anna is all alone when the Germans kidnap her father, a linguistics professor, during the 1939 Polish purge of intellectuals. She soon befriend a tall and mysterious deceiver capable of making the soldiers who glance his way see what the man wants them to see. After the Swallow Man calls a swallow from the skies to halt Anna's crying, the two brave various adventures in the wilderness. But danger may be even closer than Anna fears. First novel, 240pp.
Starred Reviews:
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books | 02/01/2016
R. Gr. 7-10. Convention tells us that a love story is about boy or girl meets boy or girl, but there are plenty of love stories that aren't about romance. A father unflaggingly supports his son as the boy falls into mental illness (Shusterman's Challenger Deep, BCCB 6/15); a community offers hope and comfort to a grieving girl (Sloan's Counting by 7s, BCCB 9/13); a newly crowned queen gives up her personal happiness to give her beloved kingdom a chance at renewal (Cashore's Bitterblue, BCCB 5/12). These types of love stories aren't straight lines from one player to another that culminate in a neat conclusion, but instead they shift and adapt to complications and often break and regroup without ensuring a happy ending. Such a relationship is forged in the the midst of World War II, as young Anna finds a father figure in the enigmatic Swallow Man; both are broken in their own way, find wholeness in each other, and then break again in this quiet exploration of love and its limits. When Nazis round up Krakow's intellectuals to be shipped off to concentration camps in 1939, seven-year-old Anna doesn't understand why her father, a linguistics professor, doesn't come home. A tall, thin man approaches and appears to be fluent in as many as languages as Anna, which immediately earns him her trust; when he calls down a swallow and appears to speak to it after it lands on his outstretched hand, Anna believes him to be magic and decides to follow him. They travel together through the Polish countryside over the next several years, and the Swallow Man (Anna's name for him, since he refuses to reveal his real one) does his best to protect Anna as the Germans and the Soviets "split the carcass of Poland." The threat of death becomes clear with every destroyed village they move through, every desperate person they encounter, but nothing terrifies Anna as much as the Swallow Man's rapid descent into madness when the supply of pills he takes daily runs out in the middle of the wilderness. Readers begin with Anna at seven, seeing the world with a sense of awe and wonder and viewing the Swallow Man as a miraculous guardian, a savior sent just for her. That innocence is slowly scraped away during the next several years as they travel through war-torn Poland; Anna is forced to scavenge through the belongings of dead soldiers, crawl though mass graves, and give her body to a stranger in order to get medicine for the Swallow Man, who is not magical so much as ill and grieving the loss of a child. When the crux of their relationship, her need of a protective parental figure and his filling that need, flips completely in a sudden and violent way, how do they retrieve those familiar dynamics? The war that makes their relationship necessary and that even perhaps nurtured it is the same thing that almost destroys it, but their love returns, bruised and battered. And that is ultimately the takeaway here-that love can endure, but it must transform after chaos has consumed it and spit it out. KQG. 240p. THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE UNIV. OF ILLINOIS, c2016.
Horn Book | 01/01/2016
Middle School. In 1939 Krakow, Poland, seven-year-old Anna is left orphaned after her father, a linguistics professor, is taken by the Nazis. Confused and frightened, but pragmatic, she follows a mysterious man, "tall and exceedingly thin"--whom she meets on the street and who seems to have the power to communicate with birds--out of the city and toward an unknown destination. As they walk, and as days become months, then years, the Swallow Man teaches Anna life lessons and survival skills in the form of aphorisms ("Asking a stranger for something is the easiest way to assure that he will not give it. Much better simply to show him a friend with a need") and metaphors ("Those [soldiers] look like young men, don't they? But they're not. The ones from the west--those are wolves. And the ones from the east are bears...and if they can find a reason to hurt you, they will"). Then Anna finds a man in the woods, a Jewish man who is a musician and who joins their little family--for a time. The third-person narrative--lyrical, fluid, with a pervasive shadow of menace--lends a folkloric feel to a graceful story steeped in history, magic, myth, and archetype; comparisons to The Book Thief (rev. 3/06) are apt regarding writing style, themes, and intended audience beyond the protagonist's years. The book leaves readers with many questions, not least of which are: Who is the Swallow Man? What is he? As the Swallow Man's words remind us in the epilogue: "Questions, Anna--questions are far more valuable than answers." elissa gershowitz. 232pg. THE HORN BOOK, c2016.
Publishers Weekly | 11/02/2015
Ages 12-up. Like Life Is Beautiful and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, this deeply moving debut novel, set in Poland and Germany during WWII, casts naivete against the cruel backdrop of inhumanity. Late one autumn morning, seven-year-old Anna is put under the care of a pharmacist. Her father is supposed to retrieve her in a few hours, but he never returns. Cast from her caretaker's shop, Anna has nowhere to turn until she falls in with a reluctant stranger, a tall, reticent man. Thus begins a years-long journey through the woods and beyond that draws Anna closer and closer to the strange man, who communicates with birds and speaks in metaphors ("Everything he said--even, perhaps especially, the things he left out--seemed to carry the reliable weight of truth"). In his quiet yet firm manner, the Swallow Man teaches Anna lessons of survival, some of which challenge her instincts to be honest and compassionate. Savit's economical prose beautifully captures a child's loss of innocence and the spiritual challenges that emerge when a safe world suddenly becomes threatening. The subject matter and gritty imagery may be too intense for some younger readers, but those knowledgeable of wartime atrocities will recognize the profundity of the bond of trust built between two strangers who become increasingly dependent on each other. Agent: Catherine Drayton, Inkwell Management. (Jan.). 240p. PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, c2015.
VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates Magazine) | 02/01/2016
5Q 3P M J S. A young girl and a mysterious man wander in and around Poland while World War II rages all around them. When seven-year-old Anna's father, a linguistics professor, is captured during the German removal of intellectuals, the precocious and multilingual Anna attaches herself to a stranger she grows to call the Swallow Man because of his ability to communicate with birds. It is clear that the man does not want to be identified or discovered and refuses to reveal his name to Anna. They spend years traveling by foot, remaining anonymous and hidden, living off rations from the dead and little else. Swallow Man is not much for conversation but does teach Anna about survival as they hold small philosophical conversations about war, self, existence, and humanity. When he runs out of the medicine he needs, Swallow Man becomes anxious, nonsensical, violent, and unpredictable, leaving it up to Anna to figure out how they will go on. Only the most astute of readers will be able to see just what Swallow Man's true identity is. Though dialogue is in short supply, Savit's spare, beautiful prose skillfully carries readers along on this perilous journey. Their perambulations keep them safe, generally, but Anna and the man are surrounded by the war, and some scenes are predictably difficult to read. The ending leaves many questions unanswered, but as the Swallow Man teaches Anna, "Questions are far more valuable than answers." This is a riveting and distinctive look at war and survival.--Amanda MacGregor. 240p. VOICE OF YOUTH ADVOCATES, c2016.
Journal Reviews
BookPage | 02/01/2016
12 and up. At the beginning of the German invasion of Poland during World War II, a young girl matures and crafts a life out of the madness of war. Seven-year-old Anna and her father, a professor, maintain a pleasant routine in the city of Krakow. One day, Anna's father leaves her in the care of a friend while he attends a mandatory university meeting, but her father never returns. When the friend subsequently abandons Anna, she falls under the authoritative scrutiny of the Swallow Man, a tall, very thin, rather scary man who has the ability to communicate with birds. Anna decides to place her trust and her life in the Swallow Man's hands. Her instincts serve her well, as he keeps Anna safe for several years, teaching her to survive in the wilderness. They walk endlessly through forests, avoiding towns and people, even at times removing items from dead soldiers in order to survive. Gavriel Savit's debut novel doesn't avoid the hard topics as it addresses the extermination of Jews and lays bare the devastating effects of war. However, all is not grim once the Swallow Man allows a cheerful young man to join them. This newcomer adds a semblance of normalcy to a world strafed by war, and the ending sees Anna heading toward a bright future. Lori K. Joyce. 240p. BOOKPAGE, c2016.
Booklist | 12/15/2015
Grades 8-11. In 1939, seven-year-old Anna's father, a linguistics professor in Krakow, disappears, along with 150 other academics. Parentless, she must find an adult to care for her, and thanks to her precocious, quick thinking, she convinces a willowy, enigmatic stranger to let her travel with him. Savit lyrically and languidly narrates the following years as Anna and the stranger, whom she calls the Swallow Man, peripatetically wander the Polish countryside, keeping to themselves and subsisting on whatever they can forage. Before long, the dangers of the Nazi occupation and the atrocities of the Holocaust become impossible to ignore, and when they add a Jewish musician to their traveling band, the Swallow Man faces difficult questions--how far will he go to protect Anna? And how far will he go to protect his own identity? Full of sophisticated questions and advanced vocabulary, Savit's debut occasionally feels like an adult novel, but young readers with the patience for his gauzy pacing and oblique plot turns will be rewarded by a moving, thought-provoking story about coming-of-age in the midst of trauma. Hunter, Sarah. 240p. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, c2015.
Horn Book Guide | 11/01/2016
1. In 1939 Kraksw, Poland, orphaned seven-year-old Anna follows a mysterious man, who seems to communicate with birds, out of the city; as days become months, then years, the Swallow Man teaches Anna life lessons and survival skills. The third-person narrative--lyrical, fluid, with a pervasive shadow of menace--lends a folkloric feel to a graceful story steeped in history, magic, myth, and archetype. erg. 232pg. THE HORN BOOK, c2016.
Kirkus Reviews | 11/15/2015
After a young girl is left to fend for herself in World War II Poland, she stumbles upon an intriguing gentleman who she hopes will guide her out of the emerging chaos of war. Anna Lania is 7 at the start of this multiyear tale with its overtones of folklore and magical realism. Her linguistics-professor father is taken away by the Germans during the expulsion of intellectuals at Jagiellonian University in Krakow. A linguist herself, Anna is drawn to the language abilities and bird savvy of the Swallow Man, so named to preserve his anonymity. As they make their way together across Poland, the Swallow Man has ingenious ways of explaining their new realities to Anna via storytelling while his real activities remain an enigma until the end. Most striking here is that debut author Savit creates a young girl's world that only consists of father figures--and it is not always clear how Anna is to determine whom to trust and whether or not these relationships and how she thinks of them are ultimately safe. The eventual conclusion: human connection, however brief or imperfect, has the potential to save us all. Artful, original, insightful. (Historical fiction. 12 & up). 240pg. KIRKUS MEDIA LLC, c2015.
School Library Journal | 12/01/2015
Gr 8 Up. In 1939 Krakow, seven-year-old Anna realizes her linguist father is not coming back from a meeting of university professors who have been summoned by the Gestapo. She can speak many languages and converse with adults, and she's able to adapt to her surroundings as Anja, Khannaleh, Anke, or whichever persona she chooses. Her father's friend, Herr Doktor Fuchsmann, becomes fearful about hiding her, so she takes to the streets, following a tall man with a doctor's bag who talks to birds. The Swallow Man's name is never learned, but the pair wander the countryside together for four years, in a story that gradually becomes less plot-based and more allegorical. There is plenty of bird imagery, suggesting the Swallow Man might be a trickster, as he swoops, nests, and eats little but dried bread. Yet there are also hints he has run from some nefarious involvement in the war and no longer wants to be "an instrument of death." Spare dialogue and elegant prose are filled with subtleties, including the language Swallow Man and Anna agree to use to keep her safe, called the "Road." Though Anna is a child at the beginning, she ages over the course of this novel, which gets darker and more violent toward the end. When Reb Hirschl, a burly and friendly Jewish man they meet in the woods, is killed and an unscrupulous doctor asks Anna to strip in exchange for medicine, it is a loss of innocence the author compares to hatching from the egg so that she will fly on her own. VERDICT More interpretive than literal, the story will generate discussion among YA readers. Vicki Reutter, State University of New York at Cortland. 240p. SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL, c2015.
Review Citations
New York Times Book Review | 03/13/2016