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)