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I Saw A Beautiful Woodpecker: The Diary of a Young Boy at the Outbreak World War II

I Saw A Beautiful Woodpecker: The Diary of a Young Boy at the Outbreak World War II

Author(s): Michał Skibiński, Ala Bankroft (Illustrator)

Location(s): Warsaw

Genre(s): Children

Era(s): 1939

It is the summer of 1939 in Warsaw, Poland and Michal is an eight-year-old boy just finishing his school year. In order to improve his handwriting, Michal’s teacher gives him a simple assignment: keep a journal, writing one sentence a day. Eighty years later, Michal’s diary has been gorgeously illustrated with beautifully atmospheric paintings. Eloquent in its simplicity, the journal is a remarkable artifact that captures the innocence of childhood and the trauma of war.

The journal starts out with a typical boy’s observations: “July 15: I went to a stream with my brother and teacher.” “July 23: I found a caterpillar.” However over the course of weeks, menacing details emerge. “July 27: A plane was circling over Anin.” “September 1: The war has begun.” “September 3: I hid from planes.” “September 14: Warsaw is bravely defending itself.” These haunting entries are interspersed with visits from relatives, a soccer game, a trip to a park, an ice cream cone. Photographs of pages from Michal’s diary enhance the poignancy of this simple record–an ordinary holiday interrupted by war; a life changed forever by an extraordinary moment in history.

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Enter the 2021TripFiction 'Sense of Place' Creative Writing Competition!

A story in which the location plays as important a role as the rest of your words.

2,500 word maximum, 750 word minimum

Judges include Victoria Hislop and Rosanna Ley

First Prize of £1,000 / US$1,350

Prizes total £1,750 / US$2,362 

Winning entry published on TripFiction site and publicised on Social Media

Entries close 6th November 2021