Powerful & Heartbreaking
Once by Morris Gleitzman is a powerful and heartbreaking historical children’s novel that is suitable for over ten years old. It is the first book in a seven book series.
Once is set in Poland during World War II. It is written in the first person from the point of view of eleven year old Felix who is a Polish Jewish boy. His parents had sold books and he is a natural born storyteller.
Felix’s innocence shines through. He thinks the Nazis don’t like Jewish people because they (the Jewish people) like books. His innocence is heartbreaking as he puts an innocent spin on the activities he sees – the people have no clothes on because it is hot. As the novel progresses, his innocence is gradually stripped away.
We witness the bravery of Felix as he rescues a six year old girl who was left for dead, along with her parents. Ironically, it is only in the young and the innocent where there are no divides amongst them.
Felix is not the only brave soul. There are pockets of bravery amongst the fearful and the cruel.
Once is simply told. It is this simplicity that makes the tale all the more powerful as the dreadful Nazi atrocities are viewed through the eyes of the innocent.
Storytelling helps to raise the focus above the circumstances. Storytelling helps Felix to feel closer to his absent parents.
We see the lies that the Nazis spread infecting the hearts of the people and turning them black. Even, Felix at first, believes Hitler to be a savior and Felix prays to God, Jesus, the pope and Hitler.
As Felix’s experience grows, his innocence diminishes. His eyes and heart see the truth.
Once was a powerful, heartbreaking tale that needs to be read in memory of the six million innocents.