Author – Gavriel Savit
Age – 13+
The first thing that struck me reading this novel set in Poland in the 1940’s, was the beautiful use of language. Each sentence was to be savoured. Some would say it was waffly, but I found it beautiful.
This story is about a seven year old girl called Anna who was very close to her Papa. He’d taught her several languages and took her with him when he met with other scholars like himself. She was encouraged to ask questions and speak her mind and wasn’t treated like a child. But when he left Anna with a friend for the day, after being called to the University where he worked – he never returns. His so-called friend let Anna sleep in his shop on the floor for one night then told her he couldn’t have her sitting in his shop any longer. She sat on the front step and couldn’t help but cry after hours of waiting for her beloved Papa to return. When a soldier noticed her, another man did too, coming to her rescue. He was tall and thin and spoke to her in different languages to determine who she was. It was only when he whistled a certain way, and a swallow swooped down to land on his hand in front of Anna, that she stopped crying.
This is where their journey together begins. We never learn the Swallow Man’s name. As the years pass by, he keeps Anna safe by teaching her another language – the language of ‘Road’ and how to survive Polish winters, German checkpoints and every other trial they face just staying alive.
(War, Poland, Survival, Friendship, WWII, Literary)