I Saw A Beautiful Woodpecker


The Diary of a Young Boy at the Outbreak of World War II

By: Michał Skibiński

Illustrated by: Ala Bankroft

Translated by: Eliza Marciniak

Published: October 5, 2021

Publisher: Prestel Junior


A school requirement led an 8-year-old Polish boy to keep a journal. He wrote just one sentence a day during the summer of 1939 as his family spent the summer holiday near Warsaw, Poland. His journal entries begin on July 15, 1939, and end on September 15, 1939.

I Saw A Beautiful Woodpecker page

Some of the journal entries are beautifully illustrated including the days he found a caterpillar in the park, or when he saw a woodpecker, or caught a wasp in a cup. Other journal entries are copied directly from his journal pages and translated into English.

I Saw A Beautiful Woodpecker Journal Page

As you might expect, the journal entry on September 1, 1939, states that the war began. The back of the book explains that on August 28, 1939, the author writes that his dad came to visit (the boys were on holiday with their grandparents). His father was a pilot and died in a plane crash just twelve days later.

Readers can imagine an 8-year-old boy enjoying his summer holiday and begrudgingly writing his minimal one sentence a day to keep his teacher happy. What you don’t expect is to be so affected while reading this boy’s one sentence a day as you know the war is looming. What a treasure this journal is for his family and a look into history inside the mind of a young child.

Michał Skibiński was 8 years old and a student at Warsaw Primary School when he wrote this diary in the summer of 1939. At the time of the publishing of this book, he lived in a retirement house for elderly priests.

Ala Bankroft is the pseudonym of the Polish painter, photographer, and film animator Helena Stiasny. Her illustrations for the book “I Saw a Beautiful Woodpecker” received a special mention in the OPERA PRIMA category at the BolognaRagazzi Award 2020 from the Bologna Children’s Book Fair.

To purchase a copy of I SAW A BEAUTIFUL WOODPECKER, click HERE.

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Thanks to the publisher for sending a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. This review is my honest opinion. If you choose to make a purchase through the above links, I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase.

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