Book review -The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier

The cover of the copy we read at school and I had up until two years ago. :(
The cover of the copy we read at school and I had up until two years ago. 😦


This story has stayed with me since school. I think I have got to the point of annoying my sister with this obsession of finding a copy with the illustration of the book above after I lost our copy in the move over two years ago. It has really upset me that I can’t find the copy we had as it was from school and I know at least I had done a project on it. The story Of Joseph and his family has always stuck with me and this is the third time in reading it after first was at school and then in 2007 and again now. When I was up north I was hunting for it in my sister’s room and got so upset that I couldn’t find it that My Mum and sister gave me my birthday present early. It also contained a copy of Five Children and It. I loved the TV series but never read the book. I also got a spotty apron which I am very grateful for but was a bit rude in receiving it. Sorry Mum.

The Birthday book on the left and the 50p copy
The Birthday book on the left and the 50p copy

I now have two copies of it the second being a 50p version and if I ever find a copy of the above it will be 3 and my most treasured set of books along with The Book Of Brownies

A bit about the author and book

Author: Ian Serraillier from Random House

Ian Serraillier (September 24, 1912 – November 28, 1994), was a British novelist and poet. Serraillier was best known for his children’s books, especially the Silver Sword (Novel) (1956), a wartime adventure story which was adapted for television by the BBC in 1957 and again in 1971.

Born in London, Serraillier was educated at Brighton College, and took his degree at St Edmund Hall, Oxford. He became an English teacher, first at World War II. It was during this period that his first published work appeared, in the form of poetry for both adults and children. In 1946 his first children’s novel was published. It was followed by several more adventure stories of treasure and spies. His best known work, The Silver Sword, was published in 1956 and has become a classic, bringing to life the story of four refugee children and their search for their parents in the chaos of Europe immediately after World War II.

As well as children’s novels and poetry, Serrailler produced his own retellings of classic tales, in prose and verse, including Beowulf, Chaucer and Greek myth. Together with his wife Anne he founded the New Windmill Series in 1948, published by Heinemann Educational Books, which set out to provide inexpensive editions of good stories. He continued as co-editor of the series until the onset of Alzheimer’s disease

Book description: Blurb from

The classic tale of a journey through war-torn Europe. Alone and fending for themselves in a Poland devastated by World War Two, Jan and his three homeless friends cling to the silver sword as a symbol of hope. As they travel through Europe towards Switzerland, where they believe they will be reunited with their parents, they encounter many hardships and dangers. This extraordinarily moving account of an epic journey gives a remarkable insight into the reality of a Europe laid waste by war.

See piece from his daughter on Radio 4’s blog

An illustration from the web
An illustration from the web

Below is a summary From Wikipedia (I know tisk tisk)

Summary One

When Joseph Balicki escaped from his Nazi prison, it took him four and a half weeks to walk back to Warsaw. He was looking for his wife Margrit and his three children, Ruth, Edek, and Bronia. But when he reached the city, there was hardly a street he recognized. Warsaw was one gigantic bomb-site. As he sifted through the pile of rubble that had been his home he thought he would never see his family again. His wife Margrit had been taken away by the Nazis, and no one had seen his children since the night the house was destroyed. But the children had survived, and this is the story of their search for their parents—a search which takes them on a long journey to Switzerland.

Summary Two

(found at the back of the book) “When the Nazis seize their father and mother, in World War II, the three Balicki children are left to fend for themselves in occupied Poland. Bravely they survive the hardships of war, and never completely lose hope of finding their parents again. This is the exciting story of their quest, of the clever orphan boy Jan who helps them, and of the silver talisman that accompanies them on their dangerous journey.”

My Blurb

I can’t remember why we had to read this at school but like I have said before it has always stuck with me. It still holds the magic it did all those years ago. Even on the third read I feel like I’m learning something new every time I read it.

It’s such a touching story how a family are town apart and how they fight against everyone and anything to be reunited. Set during the second world war a Polish family is split up and we follow the adventures of siblings Ruth, Edek and Bronia who are left to fend for themselves after their parents are taken away. There is so much too this story I just don’t know where to begin. I don’t know if I can and leave you just to read it yourself.

What I think it’s about though, is love, companionship, the will to survive, growing up., the meaning of  bonds whether blood or friendship and I think most of family,and how a family can be made up not just of people but animals to.

It’s a gentle story considering the horrors of the second world war and helps children understand the effects it can have, such as Edek and his TB, Ruth having to grow up to quickly and the effects the separation had on them all. The fact that they believed in a small silver sword would get them back to their parents and was their good luck charm and in the end it was.

again another from the web
again another from the web

But most of all the effects it had on a young boy called Jan, who had no parents and a love and special connection with animals. This description at the end made me fill-up.  After being through so much he still had a another journey to complete:

‘And what of Jan, that charming bundle of good intentions and atrocious deeds?….So he became a Balicki. During the war his mind had suffered more than his body, and his minds take longer to heal.’

This book I will return to again and again. If you like a bit of adventure, a heroic read then I recommend this.

Thank you for reading.



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