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Anna and the Swallow Man
Cover of Anna and the Swallow Man
Anna and the Swallow Man
Borrow Borrow
A New York Times Bestseller
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year
A Shelf Awareness Best Book of the Year
A Bulletin Blue Ribbon Book
Winner of the Indies Choice Book Award
Winner of the Sydney Taylor Book Award

"Exquisite." —The Wall Street Journal

"This is masterly storytelling." —The New York Times Book Review
A stunning, beautiful, and ambitious debut novel set in Poland during the Second World War perfect for readers of All the Light We Cannot See and The Book Thief.


Kraków, 1939. A million 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.

Destined to become a classic, Gavriel Savit's stunning debut reveals life's hardest lessons while celebrating its miraculous possibilities.
A New York Times Bestseller
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year
A Shelf Awareness Best Book of the Year
A Bulletin Blue Ribbon Book
Winner of the Indies Choice Book Award
Winner of the Sydney Taylor Book Award

"Exquisite." —The Wall Street Journal

"This is masterly storytelling." —The New York Times Book Review
A stunning, beautiful, and ambitious debut novel set in Poland during the Second World War perfect for readers of All the Light We Cannot See and The Book Thief.


Kraków, 1939. A million 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.

Destined to become a classic, Gavriel Savit's stunning debut reveals life's hardest lessons while celebrating its miraculous possibilities.
Available formats-
  • OverDrive Read
  • EPUB eBook
Languages:-
Copies-
  • Available:
    1
  • Library copies:
    1
Levels-
  • ATOS:
    7.1
  • Lexile:
    1160
  • Interest Level:
    UG
  • Text Difficulty:
    6

Recommended for you

Excerpts-
  • From the book What Do You Say?



    When Anna Łania woke on the morning of the sixth of November in the year 1939—her seventh—there were several things that she did not know:

    Anna did not know that the chief of the Gestapo in occupied Poland had by fiat compelled the rector of the Jagiellonian University to require the attendance of all professors (of whom her father was one) at a lecture and discussion on the direction of the Polish Academy under German sovereignty, to take place at noon on that day.

    She did not know that, in the company of his colleagues, her father would be taken from lecture hall number 56, first to a prison in Krakow, where they lived, and subsequently to a number of other internment facilities across Poland, before finally being transported to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp in Germany.

    She also did not know that, several months later, a group of her father's surviving colleagues would be moved to the far more infamous Dachau camp in Upper Bavaria, but that, by the time of that transfer, her father would no longer exist in a state in which he was capable of being moved.

    What Anna did know that morning was that her father had to go away for a few hours.

    Seven-year-old girls are a hugely varied bunch. Some of them will tell you that they've long since grown up, and you'd have trouble not agreeing with them; others seem to care much more about the hidden childhood secrets chalked on the insides of their heads than they do about telling a grown-up anything at all; and still others (this being the largest group by far) have not yet entirely decided to which camp they belong, and depending on the day, the hour, even the moment, they may show you completely different faces from the ones you thought you might find.

    Anna was one of these last girls at age seven, and her father helped to foster the ambivalent condition. He treated her like an adult—with respect, deference, and consideration—but somehow, simultaneously, he managed to protect and preserve in her the feeling that everything she encountered in the world was a brand-new discovery, unique to her own mind.

    Anna's father was a professor of linguistics at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, and living with him meant that every day of the week was in a different language. By the time Anna had reached the age of seven, her German, Russian, French, and English were all good, and she had a fair amount of Yiddish and Ukrainian and a little Armenian and Carpathian Romany as well.

    Her father never spoke to her in Polish. The Polish, he said, would take care of itself.

    One does not learn as many languages as Anna's father had without a fair bit of love for talking. Most of her memories of her father were of him speaking—laughing and joking, arguing and sighing—with one of the many friends and conversation partners he cultivated around the city. In fact, for much of her life with him, Anna had thought that each of the languages her father spoke had been tailored, like a bespoke suit of clothes, to the individual person with whom he conversed. French was not French; it was Monsieur Bouchard. Yiddish was not Yiddish; it was Reb Shmulik. Every word and phrase of Armenian that Anna had ever heard reminded her of the face of the little old tatik who always greeted her and her father with small cups of strong, bitter coffee.

    Every word of Armenian smelled like coffee.

    If Anna's young life had been a house, the men and women with whom her father spent his free time in discourse would've been its pillars. They kept the sky up and the earth down, and they smiled and spoke to her as if she were one of...
About the Author-
  • Gavriel Savit holds a BFA in musical theater from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where he grew up. As an actor and singer, Gavriel has performed on three continents, from New York to Brussels to Tokyo. He lives in Brooklyn. This is his first novel.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from November 2, 2015
    Like Life Is Beautiful and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, this deeply moving debut novel, set in Poland and Germany during WWII, casts naïveté 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. Ages 12–up. Agent: Catherine Drayton, Inkwell Management.

  • Kirkus

    November 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)

    COPYRIGHT(2015) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • School Library Journal

    December 1, 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

    Copyright 2015 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • People Magazine "Chilling yet tender."
  • Publishers Weekly, Starred Review "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."
  • Kirkus Reviews "Artful, original, insightful."
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    Random House Children's Books
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Gavriel Savit
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