Once

Author:

Morris Gleitzman

Age range:

10

13

to

Genres:

This is a great next book if your reader likes:

  • Historical fiction, especially World War 2.

  • Stories that are gripping and touching.

  • To follow a character's journey over a series of books.

  • Gritty, true to life stories that could have happened.

  • A series of books that develop characters over time.

  • The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.

For three years and eight months, Felix has lived in a convent orphanage high in the mountains in Poland. But Felix is different from the other orphans. He is convinced his parents are still alive and will come back to get him. When a group of Nazi soldiers come and burn the nuns' books, Felix is terrified that his Jewish, bookseller parents will also be in danger. After escaping from the orphanage, Felix embarks on a long and dangerous journey through Nazi occupied Poland, befriending a little orphan girl called Zelda.


Once, is the first book in an incredible series is about a boy called Felix and his friend Zelda during the Holocaust.  Readers can't help but get wrapped up in this moving and thrilling tale. With a real sense of what life must have been like, Once is a perfect book for developing empathy alongside historical knowledge.

It is a short read with rich vocabulary and a grown-up meaty theme, making it a perfect choice for some older, more reluctant readers.

I decided to read Once with my children, and it led to lots of interesting questions and discussion and a plea to get the next three books in the series!

The story is told in a straightforward first-person narrative through the character of Felix. Gleitzmann doesn't glorify the horrors or events, ensuring 10 -13-year-olds can cope with the subject matter.

Parallels to the Boy in the Striped Pajamas and The Book Theif are based on Felix's naivety in contrast with the readers' knowledge of what happened. This works well; children often see Felix as their younger brother, who will make mistakes and is protected by h=is lack of knoweledge about what's is going to happen next. 

If your reader enjoys Once they might want to read Now, Then and After. Make sure they stick to the order of the books as they follow Felix's story over time. 


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