Anna and the Swallow Man
Anna’s father, a professor, leaves her with a friend and disappears. It is Poland. The continent is at war. Anna’s father never returns, but she finds a man who can call wild birds to him, and has a great understanding of how the world works and a brilliant command of languages. The two begin to walk. During time of war, the Swallow Man says, it is best to keep moving, so they do. The journey they share goes on for years, as does the war. Anna, a growing girl, needs clothes and shoes and food, and the Swallow Man needs his pills. These problems make their journey so much harder, but when Anna chooses a stranger to join them, everything becomes so much more difficult.
Gavriel Savit has written a story that looks at the war and the holocaust in entirely different way. He examines it through the eyes of a child who survives on the edges of the conflict and tells it in the style of an old-fashioned folk tale. The writing is lyrical and gorgeous, and the story is captivating, although often dark. For most sophisticated middle-school readers, this deserves much wider readership.