Parents' Guide to

Anna and the Swallow Man

By Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 14+

Exquisite tale of Polish girl in WWII shows horrors of war.

Anna and the Swallow Man Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this book.

Community Reviews

age 14+

Based on 3 parent reviews

age 12+

Bittersweet and poetic

I started reading this book knowing that it was for young readers, but I was a little perplexed. It seemed beyond what I would expect would hold a child's interest. I realized then that it's impossible for me to read it as a child would, I can only guess. It reminds me of the experience of a book I read when I was 12, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. My mother gave it to me because she had enjoyed it. She trusted me to absorb the story at my own level. I liked it a lot, but in retrospect I see that it had mature themes, and that the protagonist, much like Anna, was navigating the difficulties of growing up. I did not read The Diary of Anne Frank until much later.
age 18+

As I began this book, I was impressed with the poetic writing. Although the author acknowledged the atrocities of war, he didn't seem eager to dwell on them. As the story progressed, however, I was surprised about the language, violence, and innuendo. The second half of the story helped me decide that this is something I would never encourage my kids to read.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (3 ):
Kids say (1 ):

Gavriel Savit's stunning literary novel ponders deep mysteries, ethical dilemmas, death, and survival as a little girl grows up wandering a war-torn world with a mysterious stranger. The unusual, sometimes dreamlike narrative voice will resonate with serious readers, as will its tendency to ponder deep questions, from ethical choices in impossible situations to the role of language in shaping the world. A working actor, first-time author Savit writes confidently about how it feels to constantly change your reality as needed. These same qualities make Anna and the Swallow Man an unlikely fit for readers who prefer a more action-oriented style with issues and values clearly defined. But for those willing to engage with its world, it offers glimmers of enduring, unlikely good and beauty even in the darkest moments, as when the two title characters find a murdered friend's body in the woods:

"He put his lips together and called as he had done all those many, many lifetimes ago in Kraków, and sure enough, a bright blue-and-orange swallow flitted down to his finger. Gingerly the Swallow Man lifted the lapel of [the dead man's] jacket and nestled the bird inside the breast pocket, close to his stilled chest.

"'He'll stay there,' said the Swallow Man, as if to Anna. 'He'll protect [our friend] -- keep the crows off. He'll be all right.' And then again, 'He'll be all right.'

"Anna's mind conjured, suddenly, an image of a far-off time when there would be nothing left of [their friend] but a bearded skeleton, a time when the swallow would build himself a nest inside the broad ribs of [the man's] chest."

Book Details

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