Monthly Archives: January 2016

Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit

I enjoy reading stories about war for children and young adults.  It’s these stories that show you the possibilities of hope among horrific events.  The characters in these stories are still shaped by the events around them and through their story we witness the atrocities and the injustices, but there is also a twinkle of hope.  In the case of Anna and the Swallow Man this hope comes in the form of the mysterious Swallow Man who finds Anna when she needs him.

9780552575270-1-edition.default.original-1Kraków, 1939, is no place to grow up. There are a million marching soldiers and a thousand barking dogs. And Anna Lania is just seven years old when the Germans take her father and suddenly, she’s alone.

Then she meets the Swallow Man. He is a mystery, strange and tall. And like Anna’s missing 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.

Over the course of their travels together, Anna and the Swallow Man will dodge bombs, tame soldiers, and even, despite their better judgement, make a friend. But in a world gone mad, everything can prove dangerous.

Anna and the Swallow Man is the beautifully-written debut novel of Gavriel Savit. I got completely wrapped up in the story of Anna and the mysterious Swallow Man that takes her under his wing.  Like Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief and John Boyne’s The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, Anna and the Swallow Man is a unique story set in a time of war.
We follow young Anna as she is left alone in Kraków when her father disappears.  He told her that he would be gone for a few hours but never returns.  When she meets a  mysterious stranger, who she calls the Swallow Man, Anna is intrigued by him and follows him.  Anna and the Swallow Man walk across Poland for many years, crossing borders and enemy lines, meeting Bears and Wolves, becoming many different people and trying to be as inconspicuous as possible.  The Swallow Man teaches Anna many lessons that are important to remember at this dangerous time, including ‘To be found is to be gone forever,’ and ‘One can’t be found as long as one keeps moving.’
The Swallow Man is an incredibly intriguing character.  Neither Anna nor the reader really knows who he is or where he has come from. You don’t know what his agenda is.  He never seems to reveal his true self as it would be dangerous if he did.  He has many skills which help him to blend in and survive, such as a knowledge of many languages and how to kill a man if needed.  I had to keep reading to discover who the Swallow Man was, and even at the end of the story you still don’t really know.
Gavriel’s writing style is very lyrical, with some stunning descriptions that blew me away.  He conjures up very clear images in your mind which really put you in the characters’ shoes.  These are just a couple of examples:
‘Where last night she had shaken her body so hard with sobbing that she’d thought she would fly apart, now Anna treasured her tears, as if they were a butterfly of deep blue at flight in the small, sunlit jar of her chest.’
‘This is a rare and unforgettable thing: the texture of a foot-fall on the chest of a dead man resting on top of others twenty deep – the slight give and rebound beneath the pressure of your boot.’
Even though I became completely wrapped up in the story I was left feeling slightly disappointed at the end of the book.  There were so many questions left unanswered and I don’t feel that you are given closure.  I feel like there were some big clues that I missed to the mystery of the story.  It’s not often that I feel lost at the end of a book.  If anyone can explain it to me I’ll feel much better.
However, I still recommend you read Anna and the Swallow Man.  Even though it left me wanting, I feel my life is a little richer from reading Gavriel Savit’s lyrical story.
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My Top February Kids & YA Releases

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Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit

Kraków, 1939, is no place to grow up. There are a million marching soldiers and a thousand barking dogs. And Anna Lania is just seven years old when the Germans take her father and suddenly, she’s alone.

Then she meets the Swallow Man. He is a mystery, strange and tall. And like Anna’s missing 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.

Over the course of their travels together, Anna and the Swallow Man will dodge bombs, tame soldiers, and even, despite their better judgement, make a friend. But in a world gone mad, everything can prove dangerous.

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My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier
Che Taylor has four items on his list: 1. He wants to spar, not just train in the boxing gym. 2. He wants a girlfriend. 3. He wants to go home. 4. He wants to keep Rosa under control.

Che’s little sister Rosa is smart, talented, pretty, and so good at deception that Che’s convinced she must be a psychopath. She hasn’t hurt anyone yet, but he’s certain it’s just a matter of time. And when their parents move them to New York City, Che longs to return to Sydney and his three best friends. But his first duty is to his sister Rosa, who is playing increasingly complex and disturbing games. Can he protect Rosa from the world – and the world from Rosa?

The Stars at Oktober Bend | FRONT COVER (20 October 2015)
The Stars at Oktober Bend by Glenda Millard
Alice is fifteen, with hair as red as fire and skin as pale as bone, but something inside her is broken. She has acquired brain injury, the result of an assault, and her words come out slow and slurred. But when she writes, heartwords fly from her pen. She writes poems to express the words she can’t say and leaves them in unexpected places around the town. Manny was once a child soldier. He is sixteen and has lost all his family. He appears to be adapting to his new life in this country, where there is comfort and safety, but at night he runs, barefoot, to escape the memory of his past. When he first sees Alice, she is sitting on the rusty roof of her river-house, looking like a carving on an old-fashioned ship sailing through the stars.
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Baxter’s Book by Hrefna Bragadottir
Baxter LOVES books! He likes stories about scary wolves, cuddly bears and cute rabbits. But when Baxter auditions to star in a book, the judges cut his dream short when they move onto to the next hopefuls (scary Wolf, cuddly Bear and cute Rabbit). Poor Baxter! He knows he can’t be like them and decides he doesn’t want to be in a book anymore. But what what’s that on the book shelf? Could it be Baxter’s very own book?
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Max by Sarah Cohen-Scali
Meet Max—it’s 1936, Bavaria, and he’s still a foetus inside his blonde, blue-eyed mother. Utterly indoctrinated in the Nazi ideology, he will address you, tell you his story until 1945—his destiny as an exceptional being, the prototype of the ‘Lebensborn’ (Fountains of Youth) program, designed to produce perfect specimens of the Aryan race to regenerate the Reich. When Max meets Lukas, a young Polish boy who resembles him but who rebels against the Nazi system, cracks starts to appear in Max’s convictions.
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Iris and the Tiger by Leanne Hall

Twelve-year-old Iris has been sent to Spain on a mission: to make sure her elderly and unusual aunt, Ursula, leaves her fortune–and her sprawling estate–to Iris’s scheming parents.

But from the moment Iris arrives at Bosque de Nubes, she realises something isn’t quite right. There is an odd feeling around the house, where time moves slowly and Iris’s eyes play tricks on her. While outside, in the wild and untamed forest, a mysterious animal moves through the shadows.

Just what is Aunt Ursula hiding?

But when Iris discovers a painting named Iris and the Tiger, she sets out to uncover the animal’s real identity–putting her life in terrible danger.

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Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate

The heart-warming new story about family and friendships from Newbery Medal-winner Katherine Applegate. Life is tough for ten-year-old Jackson. The landlord is often at the door, there’s not much food in the fridge and he’s worried that any day now the family will have to move out of their home. Again. Crenshaw is a cat. He’s large, he’s outspoken and he’s imaginary. He’s come back into Jackson’s life to help him but is an imaginary friend enough to save this family from losing everything?

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Hello 2016!

I’m back for 2016 and excited to share lots of new fantastic books with you throughout the year.  Over the break I’ve been reading some adult books (those things I read very rarely these days) and catching up on some YA books that I just didn’t get around to reading last year.  They’ve all been fantastic books and I hope to share some of them with you over the next few weeks.

I’m currently on parental leave, having some quality time with my (currently) 9 month-old and the rest of my family.  My days are filled with toys, crawling around the house, going out for walks and visiting the library. Thankfully we have a baby that sleeps pretty well during the day and night, so nap time is my reading time.  This blog may be quiet for a couple of months while my focus is at home but you can also follow me on Twitter to find out what I’m reading (it’s so much quicker to Tweet than to blog).

I’d love to hear what you have been reading and enjoying lately so feel free to leave a comment and let me know.

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