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.
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.
‘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.’