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4.3 22
by Morris Gleitzman

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Felix, a Jewish boy in Poland in 1942, is hiding from the Nazis in a Catholic orphanage. The only problem is that he doesn't know anything about the war, and thinks he's only in the orphanage while his parents travel and try to salvage their bookselling business. And when he thinks his parents are in danger, Felix sets off to warn them--straight into the heart of


Felix, a Jewish boy in Poland in 1942, is hiding from the Nazis in a Catholic orphanage. The only problem is that he doesn't know anything about the war, and thinks he's only in the orphanage while his parents travel and try to salvage their bookselling business. And when he thinks his parents are in danger, Felix sets off to warn them--straight into the heart of Nazi-occupied Poland. To Felix, everything is a story: Why did he get a whole carrot in his soup? It must be sign that his parents are coming to get him. Why are the Nazis burning books? They must be foreign librarians sent to clean out the orphanage's outdated library. But as Felix's journey gets increasingly dangerous, he begins to see horrors that not even stories can explain.
Despite his grim suroundings, Felix never loses hope. Morris Gleitzman takes a painful subject and expertly turns it into a story filled with love, friendship, and even humor.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Like The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (rev. 9/06), this Holocaust parable plays its main character's naiveté against readers' likely knowledge of the historical realities, but here the juxtaposition is believable and not at all precious; like The Book Thief (rev. 3/06), the novel extols the power of storytelling in the face of tragedy, but Once pits Felix's stories against even deeper ugliness. ... Gleitzman manages to find a grain of hope in the unresolved (and likely dire) conclusion, but this is the rare Holocaust book for young readers that doesn't alleviate its dark themes with a comforting ending.” —The Horn Book, Starred Review

“This gripping novel will make readers want to find out more” —Booklist

VOYA - Amy Wyckoff
After three years and eight months in an orphanage in the mountains, Felix finds a whole carrot in his soup—an extreme rarity. Believing the carrot is a message from his parents, he embarks on a journey through Nazi-occupied Poland to his former home. Unfortunately Felix has not been educated about the Nazi sentiment toward people of Jewish descent, and when he sees the Nazis burning books, he assumes their hatred is directed at booksellers. When he finally arrives in his hometown, he learns that everything has changed and a new family is living in his house. A courageous man named Barney appears to rescue Felix and brings him to a cellar to hide with other children. Barney is willing to sacrifice his safety, yet he cannot save the children from the trains that will carry them to the camps. It is not until the middle of the book that Felix begins to realize the Nazis do not hate Jewish books but Jewish people. Felix's naivete will likely remind readers of the narrator of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by Boyne (David Fickling Books/Random House, 2006/VOYA December 2006); despite the similarities, the first-person narrative is distinct, and Felix's journey will be a uniquely moving one for readers. The son of booksellers, Felix reveals his joy for storytelling in the way he crafts a beautiful narrative despite the gruesomeness of his surroundings. Even in the end, he maintains that he has been lucky for all the moments of delight he has felt, if only once. Reviewer: Amy Wyckoff
Children's Literature - Carol Ann Lloyd-Stanger
Although this is the story of a younger child, young teenagers will be captivated by Felix, a young Jewish boy growing up in a world he cannot understand. Each chapter begins with "Once," as Felix remembers happier times that he no longer experiences. As his story progresses, the memories shift closer to his current experiences. Felix runs away from an orphanage, thinking he will be able to return to his home and find his parents. But the new residents chase him from his home, and he is left alone. Felix is surrounded by death and destruction as he encounters violence and death all around him. At one farm, he finds a young girl alive in a scene of brutal death and begins to care for her. He helps her cope in the same way he copes himself, by making up stories and creating alternate realities. Readers will be able to see what is really happening to Felix and the other Jewish children long before the characters in the book. This provides readers a way to understand, on some level, what is unimaginable. The final words from the author ground the story in a tragic reality. Reviewer: Carol Ann Lloyd-Stanger
School Library Journal
Gr 6–9—Felix lives in Poland in 1942, and reading is his survival mechanism. Now almost 10, he was sent to a Catholic orphanage three years and eight months earlier by his Jewish bookstore-owning parents, and he's convinced himself that the sole reason he remains in hiding is because Nazis hate books. He's a natural storyteller, and when he finds a full carrot in what is typically a woefully thin bowl of soup, he fantasizes that it's a sign from his parents that they're finally on their way to take him home. When the orphanage is visited by surly Nazis instead of joyous parents, Felix escapes with only his cherished notebook full of his stories into the nearby countryside, still hoping for a family reunion. He soon discovers a burning home with two slain adults in the yard and their young daughter bruised but still alive. He takes Zelda on his journey, shielding her from the reality of her parents' deaths in much the same way he's been comforting himself, by inventing alternative realities. But, as he encounters the escalating ugliness of the death marches that are emptying his old neighborhood, now a ghetto, Felix becomes increasingly conflicted about the need to imagine a hopeful order and the need to confront brutal reality head-on. An easy first-person narrative in terms of reading level—and a good choice as a read-aloud—this Holocaust story also taps gut-punching power by contrasting the way in which children would like to imagine their world with the tragic way that life sometimes unfolds.—Jeffrey Hastings, Highlander Way Middle School, Howell, MI
Publishers Weekly
Tension builds swiftly in this wrenching tale as Felix, a preteen Polish Jew, narrates his experience of Holocaust atrocities, framed by a search for his parents that begins when he escapes from a Catholic orphanage. A natural storyteller, Felix begins each chapter with a formulaic prelude: “Once I was living in a cellar in a Nazi city with seven other children,” before chronicling events in which his narrative gifts provide comfort and courage to himself and others in increasingly bleak circumstances. After finding his home occupied by hostile neighbors, Felix witnesses pointless murders on a forced march. Gleitzman (Toad Rage) allows readers to draw conclusions before Felix does (he thinks a book burning is being conducted by “professional librarians in professional librarian armbands”), making poignant Felix's gradual loss of innocence when he realizes that Hitler is not a protector but “the boss of the Nazis,” and when he finally accepts his parents' deaths. The humorous dimension of Felix's narration provides welcome relief, while courageous acts of kindness by Catholic nuns, a German neighbor, and a Jewish dentist lend this tragedy universality. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)
Kirkus Reviews
When his Jewish parents place young Felix in an orphanage in war-torn Poland, they tell him that they must leave to fix their book business. Felix knows they will return. Curiously, one morning men in dark suits storm the orphanage and start burning books-these must be the people his parents have fled from. Others call these men Nazis; Felix doesn't understand. Determined to be reunited with his family and to save more books from being burned, Felix runs away. But during his travels he sees even more horrors: People are beaten, starved and shot. All because of books? Felix's misconceptions are heartbreaking, and readers will wince as he slowly and painfully gets closer to the truth. Packed with plenty of sadness, Felix's story is also touched with hope. He meets a kind-hearted man, loosely based on the real-life Janusz Korczak. A resonant shot to the heart-Gleitzman delivers a sharp sense of what it must have been like to be a child during the Holocaust, forced to grow up far too quickly. (Historical fiction. 12 & up)

Product Details

Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Publication date:
Felix and Zelda Series , #1
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.90(d)
640L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Morris Gleitzman has been a fashion-industry trainee, frozen-chicken defroster, department-store Santa, sugar-mill employee, and screenwriter, among other things. Now he's one of Australia's best-loved children's book authors. His books have been published all over the world.

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Once 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
klinnartz More than 1 year ago
Go get this book! Once by Morris Gleitzman is a captivating novel about Felix, a young Jewish boy living in a small catholic orphanage. He believes everything happens for a reason, he is the voice of children in the holocaust. When this boy loses his naïveté about war, he discovers that not all people are going to accept you. As a more mature child, he takes on the role of parent for some of the kids he meets along his incredible journey to help find his mom and dad, whom he believes are in trouble. But when he goes right into Nazi occupation of Poland, he is stuck between the decision of risking his life or his parents. This is a fascinating novel that will leave you at the end of your seat. I would definitely recommend this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book really comes to life. You really are hanginwith thrillibg cluffhsnger at every chapter and I just couldnt put it down. You fall in love with these charecters and I definitley recommend this book for everyone. The story is original and thrilling, an easy read, but you wont regret it. Suspensful and heart wrenching, you wont be able to stop reading and taking in all the twists and turns of Once.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Didnt read this book on the Nook. Have it at home but I love it. Definitely worth reading. If you like this book there are three more that follow it. Soooooo goooood.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book in 3 days. Each section was 35 minutes. I couldnt put it down. I got 4 oif my friends to read it. They said it was phanominal. Just read it!!
cancel80 More than 1 year ago
This was a fast paced, well written book. It would be sure to capture the attention of all ages. It does have some heavy content, as one would imagine, but is told through the eyes of a child. I can't wait to read the rest of this series!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had to read this book for school and it was amazing. I loved how the book is told from a 7year olds prespetive
Cougar_H More than 1 year ago
Once I read a book about a boy named Felix struggling to survive during the Holocaust. The book was about friends, stories, and it brought of the question of understanding. Why did the author write about such a story, what was his purpose. Perhaps his purpose was to inform the reader of how difficult it was for children under the age of 13 to survive during the Holocaust. For example Morris wrote of how Felix the main character is put into a catholic orphanage by his parents to protect him from the Nazis because he was Jewish. You can tell Morris is showing how in the time of the Holocaust parents were hiding their children because they knew Nazis would end up killing the children if they were too young to work in slave labor camps. Morris also writes about how the Nazis during the Holocaust wouldn't hesitate to kill a child. Felix finds in an abandoned apartment an infant dead from bullets in a high chair. This shows how Morris is displaying the cruelty the Nazis had toward Jewish children. It also shows how being a child during the Holocaust was one of the hardest times to survive. Another observation I made from the text is when Zelda a friend of Felix's falls sick and has a very high fever. It shows how during the Holocaust if you were a Jew hiding from the Nazis it was hard to find treatment for illnesses making surviving very hard for Jewish children. I conclude by saying I believe Morris's purpose was to show how being a child during the Holocaust made surviving very hard because to Nazis you were worthless.
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calogero More than 1 year ago
Very good.book its too short 170 pages to be $9.99... Otherwise great read
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Lawral More than 1 year ago
Doesn't the whole premise of this book stress you out? It stressed me out. For a book of 163 pages* I had to put it down more than a couple of times because I was just too nervous for Felix. He was so young when his parents left him at an orphanage. This is, presumably, why they didn't tell him why they were really leaving him in the hands of a bunch of nuns, and the nuns certainly didn't tell him either. How could they? How could they explain that to 6 year old Felix when he entered the orphanage? Besides, if Felix didn't pray to God, Jesus, the Virgin Mary, the Pope and Adolf Hitler like the rest of the orphans, he'd stand out. It was heartbreaking to watch Felix do things like return to his family's home in what used to be a Jewish neighborhood, try to flag down a truckload of soldiers when he needs help, or pray to Adolf Hitler to keep him safe, as he's been taught to do. He really has no idea what is going on in Poland and the rest of Europe. He has no idea that at ten years old he is a hunted man. His realization that it is not Jewish books that the Nazis hate, but Jews themselves, is painfully slow, and yet I never once doubted the authenticity of Felix's thought processes and take on the situation around him. As Felix's naivety lessens to make room for the huge weight of his new knowledge, it is sometimes hard to believe that he is only ten, or even that he is the same boy that I met at the beginning of the book. This is not to say that Felix's voice lost any of its authenticity, he is just aged so much by what he has to go through. Even given the subject matter, and the violence does get a bit graphic by the end, this is a beautiful book. The stories that Felix makes up for himself and others to get them through the really hard times, the people that help Felix along the way, and the hope and compassion that Felix just never loses make this an (almost) uplifting story. The ending is not horrific or magically happy. The sequel, Then, is available in the UK and will hopefully be available in the US soon. Book source: Review copy from publisher *This page count is from an uncorrected proof and may not match the published copy.
Sensitivemuse More than 1 year ago
Despite the serious and sombre subject matter of this book, I really liked how it was told. Felix is also a storyteller and it's very fitting as his parents were booksellers. His naivete shows with the significance of finding a carrot in his soup, but as the book gradually progresses, he quickly matures. He also gradually finds out what's happening to his own people and this is where his naivete stops completely. Once Zelda comes into the picture, Felix becomes an unofficial guardian for her. She may seem annoying and does patronize Felix much to his annoyance, but she also has a secret that the reader does not expect until the last third of the novel. I thought this was an interesting twist and definitely unexpected. However it shows no matter who's side anyone is during times of war, everybody is a victim. I couldn't help but feel sad for Barney, I admire his bravery for protecting lost children, and in the end it was almost just too sad to read because his fate remains rather grim. The ending leaves for another book (it is a trilogy) and I think it's well worth picking up. The fate of Felix and Zelda are left out in the open and I'm curious as to know what will happen to them. It's a great book for middle grade children and informing them about the Holocaust through the point of view of a child. It's well written without the awful graphic details one might find in books containing this subject. I definitely do recommend this book for those interested in this subject and who want to teach younger children about it.