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Enchanting and heart-breaking

1 Nov


I am slowly chipping away at the mountain of arcs I got at this summer’s ALA Annual Meeting. Some have already been published, but today I want to share a slim volume, due to be published in January,  that defies genre. At times Gavriel Savit’s Anna and the Swallow Man feel like historical fiction, at other times like a fairytale, a folktale, or magical realism.

Although slim and told in the voice of seven-year-old Anna, , it is written for a savvy reader. By this, I mean you. You really should pick up. Savit has crafted a beautiful novel, and, like Anna, her father and the Swallow Man, Savit has a facility with language that makes this complex tale seem simple, enchanting the reader and drawing us deeper into the tale.

The book is frequently compared to The Book Thief  but I am reminded of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. The  voices ring similar to me naive and hopeful in the face of loss and horror. Savit is a debut author so I think this is another book that I am sure the 2017 Morris Committee will examine closely.

Publisher’s Summary: Kraków, 1939. A mill,ion 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.

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