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Anna and the Swallow Man

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Anna and the Swallow Man

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Anna and the Swallow Man
By Gavriel Savit
Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-553-51334-9

Reviewed by Anna Dogole - February 10, 2016

Anna and the Swallow Man is not your ordinary young adult book. Centered around the Holocaust and a young girl named Anna Lania, this book offers readers both a mystical journey into a world filled with magic and hope, as well as one filled with all to graphic horrors caused by the Nazis. It all starts in November of 1939. Anna is seven years old and lives in Krakow, Poland with her father. On one cold day in November he heads off to the university where he teaches to attend a lecture. Anna never sees him again, and she is left all alone when she is abandoned by her father's friend who had been watching her. Wandering around Krakow, all alone, little seven-year-old Anna meets the Swallow Man and her world changes forever in unimaginable ways.

Anna and the Swallow Man is Gavriel Savit's first book, and it is one that will resonate with both young readers and adults alike. The Swallow Man is an enigmatic figure who can make other people see what he wants them to see, and who takes Anna under his wings as both her protector and guide, although taking care of her might decrease his own chances of survival. Together, they wander through war ravaged Poland, dodging bombs, Nazi and Russian soldiers, and the ever present specter of hunger and disease. Along the way they also meet some rather unique characters, and possibly even make a friend...

This is a very hard book to classify. It is in part a fairy tale and it is in part an apocalyptic warning about the future - based upon the past. It is as equally suited for middle grade students, as it is for adult book groups. It is a story filled with pain and unimaginable horrors, and it is a story filled with hope, joy, and friendship. Filled with hauntingly sparse prose and rich descriptions, this is a book that will make you think, ask questions, and in all likelihood it is a book that you will reread. Each time you reread Anna and the Swallow Man you will discover new depths to this unique story and the mystery that it encompasses.

Anna and the Swallow Man is a book that will enthrall anyone looking for a literary quality children's book, either for the child/children in their lives, or simply for themselves. It is also a book that can be used effectively in a classroom situation to help foster discussions about the Holocaust and war in general.


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