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Spring 2016 Publishers’ Preview: Five Questions for Gavriel Savit

Publishers' Previews

This interview originally appeared in the March/April 2016 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Spring Publishers’ Preview, a semiannual advertising supplement that allows participating publishers a chance to each highlight a book from its current list. They choose the books; we ask the questions.

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In Anna and the Swallow Man, a debut novel by Gavriel Savit, young Anna can speak nine languages, but none of them can help her when her father is taken by the Nazis. But then she meets the Swallow Man, who takes Anna and readers through the treacherous landscape of wartime Poland.

Savit_Gavriel

Photo: Arthur Cohen.

1. How do you see Anna and the Swallow Man fitting into the formidable tradition of books about WWII for young people?

GS: There are a great many wonderful, beautiful, and wholly necessary books about WWII for young people, and, with humility, I’ll say that I hope that Anna and the Swallow Man can find its place in the conversation among them. One salient difference between my book and some of the others: I think Anna and the Swallow Man is primarily concerned with life, not death.

2. Going into it, did you know that you were writing a children’s book?

GS: Not particularly — my first drafts are always closed negotiations between me and my characters. Only after all the major architecture has been set do I begin to worry about audience, and by then, more often than not, the book itself has an opinion. From my perspective, Anna and the Swallow Man is a book for individuals, not for age groups. I can imagine fifth graders who really need the book and thirty-year-olds who aren’t quite ready for it yet.

savit_anna_swallow3. Anne Frank believed that “in spite of everything,” people are really good at heart. Do you?

GS: I think, ultimately, that people are self-interested at heart, and I think that part of a healthy sense of self-interest is to nurture the impression of one’s own goodness-at-heart. So yes…ish.

4. What do you know now about writing a novel that you didn’t know when you began your book?

GS: Just how much coffee is required.

5. You’re an actor and singer as well as a writer. Where do these passions connect?

GS: For me, it’s all about telling human stories. As a singer, your medium is your voice; as an actor, your personhood; and as a writer, the broad cast of your imagination. Each has its limitations, and each has its advantages, but the ultimate goal always has to be the telling of the story.

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Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.

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