Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Review - ONCE by Morris Gleitzman

Once is an interesting read. It is the story of Felix, a Jewish boy whose parents have hidden him in a Catholic orphanage in Poland. Felix is a hopeless optimist in the very best sense. He genuinely believes that his bookseller parents will ultimately be returning to reclaim him, that, for the past three years, they have been simply hiding and protecting their books. Felix is a storyteller who has recorded his stories for his parents in his journal. Felix sets off through war torn, 1940s Poland in search of his parents. Along the way, the horrible and tragic reality of World War Two becomes apparent even to Felix, who truly imagines the best in all things and people. He rescues a little girl named Zelda and, accompanied by her, finds his way to the sheltering protection of a kindly dentist. The story is beautifully written and Felix is a compelling and sympathetic protagonist. It is nearly painful to watch as the veil of optimism is torn from Felix's mind and heart. Still, throughout the story, Felix's essential goodness remains untouched. The essence of the story is captured in the title, that is: "Everybody deserves to have something good in their life at least . . . Once." The concept is beautiful and this theme underpins the story. There is no easy resolution to Felix's life situation, and the author handles it deftly. A compelling read for students in fifth grade and above. The reading level makes it accessible to younger students, but the subject matter would be more accessible and comprehensible to middle grade readers.