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Song of the Swallows
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Song of the Swallows

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  1,602 ratings  ·  182 reviews
Every summer, the swallows leave San Juan Capistrano and fly far away, to a peaceful green island-but they always come back in the spring, on St. Joseph's Day. Juan loves las golondrinas, and so does his friend, Julian, the gardener at the mission.

This year Juan plants a garden in his own yard. There's nothing he wants more than for the swallows to nest there. And on St.
Hardcover, 32 pages
Published July 15th 1987 by Atheneum Books (first published January 1st 1949)
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Average rating 3.69  · 
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 ·  1,602 ratings  ·  182 reviews

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A beautiful story about a family that honors the swallows in a village in Latin America. They love watching the birds grow and learn to fly and are sad when they fly away. They rejoice when the birds return.

The book is about living in harmony with nature and loving our surroundings and the things that make life beautiful. Several pages had a lot of text in this. The illustrations were beautiful.

The kids are starting to rate books now that my niece is in a summer reading program and they gave
Book Concierge
This lovely picture book tells the story of the Swallows of Capistrano, who return each year on St Joseph’s Day, to build their nests and have new chicks.

Juan is a boy who loves to wander the gardens of the mission, who are tended by Julian. The older man teaches the boy the song of the swallows, calling them by their Spanish name las golondrinas. Helping Julian in the gardens, and watching his beloved swallows, Juan learns about nature and the cycle of life. Julian also tells him a little of
Aug 01, 2009 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: parents reading with their children
This is a sweet tale about the migratory patterns of the swallows who come to Capistrano every spring on Saint Joseph's Day (right near the Vernal Equinox) to make their nests and have babies.

It's a touching story and the illustrations are nice, too. Although the tale was published more than sixty years ago, it doesn't feel out of date. A timeless tale to celebrate the coming of Spring and the swallows.

This book was selected as one of the books for the July 2014 - Quarterly Caldecott
I ended up being quite taken with Song of the Swallows. Such a gentle, sweet story with lovely, heartfelt illustrations. While it wasn't a story that necessarily "wowed" me as I was reading it, I have found myself thinking of it fondly throughout the day, it having touched both my heart (the friendship between the boy and the older man, the gentle earnestness of Juan as he became more and more interested in the swallows, eventually wanting to help make them at home in his own yard) and my mind ...more
Dec 29, 2011 rated it liked it
Caldecott Medal, 1950

Art Media: Tempera

Favorite illustration: pages 11-12

Favorite line: "The swallows were very much like little folks who had been on a long journey and were happy to be home again."
Ms. B
Jun 27, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: caldecott, picture, 1990s, 2019
Did you know that St. Joseph's feast day is on March 19? Are you looking for a story or read-aloud for it? This book about Juan who awaits the return of the swallows in San Juan Capistrano, California by making a garden (similar to the ones found in the Mission San Juan Capistrano) is just the book for you.
Kiera Burnett
Summary and Critique:
Song of the Swallows, a children’s picture book written in 1948 features an eloquent story line with strong Hispanic ties. The book demonstrates a unique, missionary culture, containing beautiful architecture and gardens. The majority of the illustrations in this book are muted in color and while they are well drawn, they are not particularly interesting and draw little attention. Three times, the book features full page illustrations, vividly colored and highly detailed.
Dec 31, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Jeana
Shelves: children-s
On the inside cover of this book reads " To my dear friend Cissy with all best wishes from Juan and me- Leo Politi 1965. My aunt was 10 years old when Mr. Politi signed her book and he included a picture of a swallow with the inscription. Because my aunt is my daughter's namesake and passed away at 22 years of age, anything that belonged to her is incredibly special to me. This is a charming little book that talks about the swallows returning to San Juan Capistrano. It includes beautiful ...more
Jun 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: caldecott
1950 Caldecott Medal. Favorite Illustration: When Juan and Julian are feeding the pigeons in the mission garden.
Every day on the way to and from school, Juan stops at the mission at Capistrano to visit with the gardener and see the birds. His favorites are the swallows.
This is another charming story by Leo Politi featuring the Latino history and culture of Southern California. I enjoyed this one more than the other two I've read: Juanita and Pedro The Angel Of Olvera Street. I thought the faith
Katie Fitzgerald
This is another book where the illustrations really got my attention and the text really did not. The subject matter - the swallows’ yearly return to Capistrano - interested me somewhat because my dad used to talk about that when I was a kid, but the story didn’t really stick with me. What I did like was the artist’s use of bright springtime colors and the fact that the music for the songs Juan and the other kids sing is included right in the book. I also think it’s important to have books like ...more
Kristine Hansen
Feb 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
This little book is one I would have enjoyed in our earlier days of homeschooling. Here is a story with history, science, language, art... so much to offer. The music is included with the songs that tell about the swallows returning to Capistrano. The tale has strong Hispanic elements, and even some words in Spanish introduced gently with the translation. There's talk about birds, about gardens, nesting habits...I loved this. Especially how everything linked through the boy and the gardener. I'm ...more
A great educational book for your children over the preschool age. My 6 yr old loved it. Lots of good information with beautiful pictures that will help keep children engaged. A great addition to any children's library.
Jennifer (JenIsNotaBookSnob)
The portions about the swallows were nice enough as were the illustrations. However, there are some portions that are simply cringe-inducing. The location is the Mission San Juan Capistrano in California, built around 1775-1776 or thereabouts.
Obviously, we now better understand that these missions didn't really give very much to the natives, certainly not as much as they took away. It feels a bit inaccurate to say that the mission helped the natives in any way. The whole point was to convert
Luisa Knight
Apr 29, 2019 rated it it was ok
A little boy loves tending the gardens, and with excitement awaits the arrive of the swallows.

Ages: 5 - 9

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Stacy M. Patton
The illustrations are just beautiful in this book. The two page illustration of the Mission church just took my breath away and I wanted to retreat inside these pages.

The story is about a boy who falls in love with the swallows and makes his own garden so they will come and live with him. The story is a wordy one so this may be better for your older children then your younger ones.
Nov 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 31-40
Genre: Multi-cultural/ Realistic Fiction
Award: Caldecott Medal
Lexile: 620 Grade Level: 3.5

This book is about named Juan who finds an attachment to these particular birds called swallows. He watches the swallows grow and learn daily from an egg to becoming adult birds. Like all birds, swallows fly south in the winter, but this saddens Juan. He misses the swallows and the sounds of their songs. Finally, winter ends and he prepares for the swallows to return. He becomes worrisome when the
Apr 06, 2010 rated it it was ok
I love the fact that an author with such splendid writing and illustrating skills has used them to create a book as moving and wonderful as this one.

Song of the Swallows is, in my view, perhaps the artistically greatest of all books that have ever won the Caldecott Medal. I'm blown away by the breathtaking panoramas that Leo Politi has so sensitively rendered, each one blooming from the page with the loveliness of a flower in first bloom. These drawings are deep and tender, capturing the
Dec 03, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: caldecotts
Written and illustrated by Leo Politi, Song of the Swallows is the story of a young boy from Capistrano, California, a mission village, and the swallows he loves who live there in the Spring. When first glancing at the cover, it looks old fashioned, and rightfully so, as it was published in 1948. However, the illustrations within still capture the story beautifully. Juan visits the mission his village was built around to meet with his friend Julian, the mission’s bell ringer. The two’s ...more
Dione Basseri
I often find myself a bit disappointed with older Caldecott Medal winners. I think that's primarily because of the differences in art style between the mid-20th century and the post-2000s. Modern Caldecott winners tend to use the entire page for art, rather than a bit over half, as in this book. So much of the book is whitespace, and, while this makes sense for the publishing challenges of its day, it's not as appealing now.

This book has a LOT of text, though most of it is fairly simple. Still,
Kiah Albritton
Mar 08, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: exam-1
Written and illustrated by Leo Politi, Song of the Swallows won the 1950 Caldecott Medal. This was my first read of the book; I really enjoyed the images in the book, and it was a beautiful balance of informative and entertaining. Also, I loved the Spanish words and phrases used throughout the book. The intended audience for this book is kindergarten-second grade children. Although, it’s not a chapter book, there are multiple paragraphs of text on most pages.I do think the text is too heavy for ...more
Juan is fascinated by the swallows that fill the Mission garden in Capistrano, and he becomes even more intrigued when Julian, the mission's elderly bell ringer, tells him about the birds' migration to the South for the winter. He also reassures the boy that the birds will return next spring. Juan prepares his own garden in hopes that when the swallows return, they may visit his small house. Throughout the long winter months, Juan looks in the skies for birds, but they are nowhere in sight. ...more
Nov 02, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: children-s-books
This book was really cute. I especially loved the art that was incorporated into this book. It was about a little boy named Juan who is from a little village named Capistrano. This boy is friends with an older man named Julian who was the bell ringer of the Mission in town. This book then goes on to show the friendship between the two, and the curiosity and amusement that Juan has with the beautiful swallows that seem to be in the hundreds that hang around near the Mission. Juan loves to play ...more
Guadalupe Sanchez
Sep 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Song of the Swallows by Politi Leo
Genre: picture book, fiction Reading level:K-2 grade Format: good

Reading the book Song of the Swallows by Leo Politi I connected as a reader while I was reading this book because I was able to relate how birds are very important to the Hispanic culture. I liked how the book included songs that relates to the text. For example in how the text mentioned the swallows would leave the village in where Juan lived during the winter, but came back during St. Joseph’s
Emma Davis
Jan 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Juan lives in an old adobe home in Capistrano, California near the ocean. He enjoys the company of Julian, his village’s flowers, and the birds that came to visit. His favorite birds were las golondrinas, the swallows, who came to lay their eggs there every summer. His favorite part about the birds was when they taught the young to fly, because the baby birds were so cute and clumsy. Juan sings a song to them when they leave to fly south for the winter. Juan decides to plant a garden for the ...more
Nichole Petteruti
Sep 09, 2011 rated it liked it
Although I wouldn't say this is one of my favorite books I have read, I did enjoy it. The story is about a boy named Juan, and his friend Julian, who takes care of the garden and rings the bell outside of the mission in their small town. Julian tells Juan the story of the mission and explains how the Swallows come to the garden every St. Joseph's day. Juan enjoys listening to Julian's stories, and learns to love gardening and all of the birds as well, especially the swallows. I like that this ...more
Cari Williams
Song of the Swallows is about a young boy named Juan and an elderly man who works at a Mission in Capistrano, California. The two of them spend a lot of time together because Juan becomes very interested in the Swallows that live there. I liked this book because the story line was sweet. I liked how in the illustrations there were some that were big and colorful, and the other pages with the words on them were more neutral colors. It allowed me to really focus on the story instead of being ...more
Deanna Colburn
Apr 15, 2013 rated it liked it
This story is a very loving story about a boy named Juan and the swallows. Juan loved the swallows that lived in his town, he would learn something new about them every day. When they left his town he and his friends felt the silence of the swallows absence. When the swallows returned the entire town was filled with joy and Juan was the happiest he had ever been. The illustrator emphasized creating the setting for the reader with two pages filled with a detailed drawing of the church and village ...more
Chad Adams
Song of the Swallows
This book was a very interesting read mainly because it was different from most children's books I've read. This book was published around the 50's. The main plot of the story was about birds always returning to an island around a certain time of the year. The main character a young boy named Juan wanted to plant a tree so that the birds would come back and live in the tree he planted.

The text is complimented extremely well in this book. There are numerous Amounts of
Emily Garrison
Dec 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book won the Caldecott Award in 1950. This lovely little story takes place in the village of Capistrano near in old Mission. Juan is a boy who visits the mission often since he loves it's beauty. He especially likes the birds that visit the mission since they can be undisturbed. Humming birds, white pigeons, sparrows, swallows and other birds frequent the mission garden. Juan's favorite type of bird in the garden were the swallows which came in the spring on Saint Joseph's Day and left late ...more
Feb 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: january-2014
While the book was lengthy, the story was depicted beautifully through the illustrations. The story is a cute tale about a boy and his apprentice and the magical swallows that captivate his attention. The story is told through the illustrations and the text is used to support the images. It is a good story to read in it's entirety, but as a solo reader. If you were to read this out loud to a class, it would be better to summarize the text and involve the students through asking questions about ...more
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LDS Ladies Book Club: Song of the swallows 3 15 Jul 15, 2016 09:15PM  
Around the Year i...: Song of the Swallows, by Leo Politi 1 12 Jul 08, 2016 10:11PM  

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Leo Politi was born in California and spent most of his childhood in Italy. He was an artist and children's book author. He was especially drawn toward Mexican themes.