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The silver sword by Ian Serraillier

The silver sword (original 1956; edition 2007)

by Ian Serraillier, C. Walter Hodges

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1,584274,603 (3.93)1 / 70
Title:The silver sword
Authors:Ian Serraillier
Other authors:C. Walter Hodges
Info:London : Jonathan Cape, 2007.
Collections:Your library, Read in 2012
Tags:20th Century, Children's: British

Work details

The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier (1956)

  1. 10
    When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr (markbarnes)
    markbarnes: Both books tell the story of escape from Nazi Germany, through a child's eyes. Although quite different from one another, both are poignant, and beautifully written.
  2. 00
    Star of Danger by Jane Whitbread Levin (bookel)
  3. 00
    Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt (mybookshelf)
    mybookshelf: Siblings looking after each other in a real world, without parents.
  4. 00
    Twenty and Ten by Claire Huchet Bishop (infiniteletters)

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I read this many times as a small boy at primary school, from about the age of 8. It sparked my interest in personal stories of war and history. ( )
  jmkemp | Jul 5, 2016 |
Very well done. WWII refugee children trying to find family. Title from 1001 Children's Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up. ( )
  njcur | Feb 13, 2014 |
title: escape form Warsaw 1963
  sundropsun | Sep 26, 2013 |
Boring. The writing is boring, the story is boring and not well-written so it makes it seem very unbelievable. The characters are... boring.

It wasn't exactly painful to read, but only because it was easy to read and therefore took very little time. But I certainly didn't enjoy it either. Just... boring. ( )
  BrynDahlquis | Jun 29, 2013 |
It is more than forty years since I last read this novel, which was one of my favourites as a child. I hadn't even thought about it in decades, but someone mentioned it a few days ago, and prompted me to re-read it. What a delight it proved.

The book tells of the travails of the Balicki family from Warsaw. The father, Joseph, headmaster of a local school, is imprisoned by the Nazis after someone reports him for turning the photograph of Hitler that he had been required to hang in his classroom to face the wall. Shortly afterwards his wife, Magrit, is also interned, leaving their three children (Ruth, Edek and Bronia) to fend for themselves.

After a couple of years Joseph manages to escape from his prison and returns to Warsaw to look for his family. He finds the family home reduced to rubble. Aghast he delves down to see if he can unearth any trace of the family but all he finds is a paper knife, in the shape of an elaborate small silver sword that he had given to his wife several years earlier. While staring in disgust at the remains of the house he becomes aware that he is being watched by a young boy, Jan, clutching a cat while. After a brief conversation (during which the young boy successfully picks Joseph's pockets) Joseph hands over the silver sword to Jan in return for a promise that he will do whatever he can to find a trace of Magrit or the children. Jan stows the sword away in a wooden box in which he keeps all of his dearest treasures (which include, among other things, the shrivelled body of a dead lizard). Joseph explores the remaining streets of the community searching for clues as to what might have happened to his family. Finding no trace he decides to head for Switzerland (where Magrit came from), in the belief that she would have tried to flee there to escape their oppressors.

Meanwhile the three children have been fending for themselves until Edek is arrested by the Nazis for smuggling food to be sold through the black market. Ruth starts running an informal school to try to teach some of the Polish children, and eventually Jan comes to join them - by now his cat has gone, to be replaced by Jimpy, a cockerel. By chance the three children find that Jan has the silver sword which they immediately recognise. Jan explains how he came by it, adding that Joseph had told him about his plans to seek his family in Switzerland. The story then deals with the children's exploits firstly to locate Edek, and then to try to cross Poland and then Germany to try to reach Switzerland.

The book is now recognised as a children's classic, though on its publication in 1956 there was a lot of criticism suggesting that the novel dealt with subjects too serious for younger readers. This seems odd nowadays - after all, Serraillier weaves a very sound plot and his characters are finely drawn. Even though the context may now seem very remote to today's children, surely this is exactly the sort of books that they should be reading. It holds up excellently for an adult audience, too. ( )
1 vote Eyejaybee | Jun 2, 2013 |
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"Here is no final grieving, but an abiding hope.
The moving waters renew the earth. It is spring."
--Michael Tippett, A Child of Our Time
To Helen
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This is the story of a Polish family, and of what happened to them during the Second World War and immediately afterward.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Later alternative title "Escape from Warsaw"
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0590437151, Paperback)

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:39 -0400)

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The story of three Polish children and their experience in Europe during World War II.

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