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 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 They must be foreign librarians sent to clean out the orphanage's outdated library.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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781429922340
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Publication date: 03/30/2010
Series: Once Series , #1
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 176
Sales rank: 279,554
File size: 173 KB
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About 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.

Morris Gleitzman has been a frozen-chicken defroster, fashion industry trainee, 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. He is the author of Once, Then, and Now.

Read an Excerpt


By Morris Gleitzman

Henry Holt and Company

Copyright © 2005 Creative Input Pty. Ltd.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-2234-0


Once I was living in an orphanage in the mountains and I shouldn't have been and I almost caused a riot.

It was because of the carrot.

You know how when a nun serves you very hot soup from a big metal pot and she makes you lean in close so she doesn't drip and the steam from the pot makes your glasses go all misty and you can't wipe them because you're holding your dinner bowl and the fog doesn't clear even when you pray to God, Jesus, the Virgin Mary, the Pope, and Adolf Hitler?

That's happening to me.

Somehow I find my way toward my table. I use my ears for navigation.

Dodie who always sits next to me is a loud slurper because of his crooked teeth. I hold my bowl above my head so other kids can't pinch my soup while I'm fogged up, and I use Dodie's slurping noises to guide me in.

I feel for the edge of the table and put my bowl down and wipe my glasses.

That's when I see the carrot.

It's floating in my soup, huge among the flecks of cabbage and the tiny blobs of pork fat and the few lonely lentils and the bits of gray plaster from the kitchen ceiling.

A whole carrot.

I can't believe it. Three years and eight months I've been in this orphanage and I haven't had a whole carrot in my dinner bowl once. Neither has anyone else. Even the nuns don't get whole carrots, and they get bigger servings than us kids because they need the extra energy for being holy.

We can't grow vegetables up here in the mountains. Not even if we pray a lot. It's because of the frosts. So if a whole carrot turns up in this place, first it gets admired, then it gets chopped into enough pieces so that sixty-two kids, eleven nuns, and one priest can all have a bit.

I stare at the carrot.

At this moment I'm probably the only kid in Poland with a whole carrot in his dinner bowl. For a few seconds I think it's a miracle. Except it can't be because miracles only happened in ancient times and this is 1942.

Then I realize what the carrot means and I have to sit down quick before my legs give way.

I can't believe it.

At last. Thank you, God, Jesus, Mary, the Pope, and Adolf Hitler. I've waited so long for this.

It's a sign.

This carrot is a sign from Mum and Dad. They've sent my favorite vegetable to let me know their problems are finally over. To let me know that after three long years and eight long months things are finally improving for Jewish booksellers. To let me know they're coming to take me home.


Dizzy with excitement, I stick my fingers into the soup and grab the carrot.

Luckily the other kids are concentrating on their own dinners, spooning their soup up hungrily and peering into their bowls in case there's a speck of meat there, or a speck of rat poo.

I have to move fast.

If the others see my carrot there'll be a jealousy riot.

This is an orphanage. Everyone here is meant to have dead parents. If the other kids find out mine aren't dead, they'll get really upset and the nuns here could be in trouble with the Catholic head office in Warsaw for breaking the rules.

"Felix Saint Stanislaus."

I almost drop the carrot. It's Mother Minka's voice, booming at me from the high table.

Everyone looks up.

"Don't fiddle with your food, Felix," says Mother Minka. "If you've found an insect in your bowl, just eat it and be grateful."

The other kids are all staring at me. Some are grinning. Others are frowning and wondering what's going on. I try not to look like a kid who's just slipped a carrot into his pocket. I'm so happy I don't care that my fingers are stinging from the hot soup.

Mum and Dad are coming at last.

They must be down in the village. They must have sent the carrot up here with Father Ludwik to surprise me.

When everyone has gone back to eating, I give Mother Minka a grateful smile. It was good of her to make a joke to draw attention away from my carrot.

There were two reasons Mum and Dad chose this orphanage: because it was the closest and because of Mother Minka's goodness. When they were bringing me here, they told me how in all the years Mother Minka was a customer of their bookshop, back before things got difficult for Jewish booksellers, she never once criticized a single book.

Mother Minka doesn't see my smile — she's too busy glaring at the Saint Kazimierz table — so I give Sister Elwira a grateful smile too. Sister Elwira doesn't notice either because she's too busy serving the last few kids and being sympathetic to a girl who's crying about the amount of ceiling plaster in her soup.

They're so kind, these nuns. I'll miss them when Mum and Dad take me home and I stop being Catholic and go back to being Jewish.

"Don't you want that?" says a voice next to me.

Dodie is staring at my bowl. His is empty. He's sucking his teeth, and I can see he's hoping my soup is up for grabs.

Over his shoulder, Marek and Telek are sneering.

"Grow up, Dodek," says Marek, but in his eyes there's a flicker of hope that he might get some too.

Part of me wants to give my soup to Dodie because his mum and dad died of sickness when he was three. But these are hard times and food is scarce and even when your tummy's stuffed with joy you still have to force it down.

I force it down.

Dodie grins. He knew I'd want it. The idea that I wouldn't is so crazy it makes us both chuckle.

Then I stop. I'll have to say good-bye to everyone here soon. That makes me feel sad. And when the other kids see Mum and Dad are alive, they'll know I haven't been truthful with them. That makes me feel even sadder.

I tell myself not to be silly. It's not like they're my friends, not really. You can't have friends when you're leading a secret life. With friends you might get too relaxed and blurt stuff out and then they'll know you've just been telling them a story.

But Dodie feels like my friend.

While I finish my soup I try to think of a good thing I can do for him. Something to show him I'm glad I know him. Something to make his life here a bit better after I've gone, after I'm back in my own home with my own books and my own mum and dad.

I know exactly what I can do for Dodie.

Now's the moment. The bath selection has just started.

Mother Minka is standing at the front, checking Jozef all over for dirt. He's shivering. We're all shivering. This bathroom is freezing, even now in summer. Probably because it's so big and below ground level. In ancient times, when this convent was first built, this bathroom was probably used for ice-skating.

Mother Minka flicks her tassel toward the dormitory. Jozef grabs his clothes and hurries away, relieved.

"Lucky pig," shivers Dodie.

I step out of the queue and go up to Mother Minka.

"Excuse me, Mother," I say.

She doesn't seem to notice me. She's peering hard at Borys, who's got half the playing field under his fingernails and toenails. And a fair bit of it in his armpits. I can see Mother Minka is about to flick her tassel toward the bath.

Oh, no, I'm almost too late.

Then Mother Minka turns to me.

"What is it?" she says.

"Please, Mother," I say hurriedly, "can Dodek be first in the bath?"

The boys behind me in the queue start muttering. I don't glance back at Dodie. I know he'll understand what I'm trying to do.

"Why?" says Mother Minka.

I step closer. This is between me and Mother Minka.

"You know how Dodek's parents died of sickness," I say. "Well, Dodek's decided he wants to be a doctor and devote his life to wiping out sickness all over the world. The thing is, as a future doctor he's got to get used to being really hygienic and washing himself in really hot and clean water."

I hold my breath and hope Dodie didn't hear me. He actually wants to be a pig-slaughterer and I'm worried he might say something.

Mother Minka looks at me.

"Get to the back of the queue," she says.

"He really needs to be first in the bath every week," I say. "As a doctor."

"Now!" booms Mother Minka.

I don't argue. You don't with Mother Minka. Nuns can have good hearts and still be violent.

As I pass Dodie he gives me a grateful look. I give him an apologetic one. I know he wouldn't mind about the doctor story. He likes my stories. Plus I think he'd be a good doctor. Once, after he pulled the legs off a fly, he managed to stick a couple back on.

Ow, this stone floor is really cold on bare feet.

That's something Dodie could do in the future. Design bathroom heating systems. I bet by the year 2000 every bathroom in the world will be heated. Floors and everything. With robots to pick the twigs and grit out of the bathwater.

Look at that. Borys is the first one in and the water's brown already. I can imagine what it'll be like when I finally get in. Cold, with more solid bits in it than our soup.

I close my eyes and think about the baths Mum and Dad used to give me. In front of the fire with clean water and lots of warm wet cuddles and lots and lots of stories.

I can't wait to have a bath like that again.

Hurry up, Mum and Dad.

I stayed awake all night, waiting for Mum and Dad to arrive. They didn't.

They haven't.

But it's all right. Nobody drives up that narrow rocky road from the village in the dark unless they're Father Ludwik. He says God helps him and his horse with the steering.

Mum and Dad were never very religious so they probably wouldn't risk it.

They'll be here once it's daylight.

What I'm worrying about now is whether they'll recognize me after three years and eight months.

You know how when you have a haircut or a tooth comes out, your parents carry on about how you must be the kid who belongs to the shoe mender down the street?

Well, I've changed even more than that. When I arrived at this place I was plump and little with freckles and two gaps. Now I'm about twice as tall with glasses and a complete set of teeth.

I press my face against the cold windowpane over my bed and watch the sky start to go pale and tell myself not to be silly. I remind myself what Mum and Dad said when they brought me here.

"We won't forget you," Mum whispered through her tears. I knew exactly what she was saying. That they wouldn't forget to come and get me once they'd fixed up their bookshop troubles.

"We'll never forget you," Dad said in a husky voice, and I knew exactly what he was saying too. That when they come, even if I've changed a lot, they'll still know it's me.

The sun is peeping up behind the convent gates. Now it's getting light outside I don't feel so anxious.

Plus, if all else fails, I've got my notebook.

The cover's a bit stained from when I had to snatch it away from Marek and Borys in class. It was to stop them reading it and some ink got spilled, but apart from that it looks exactly like it did when Mum and Dad gave it to me. It's the only notebook with a yellow cardboard cover in this whole place, so they'll definitely recognize it if I hold it in an obvious way when they arrive.

And when they read it, they'll know I'm their son because it's full of stories I've written about them. About their travels all over Poland discovering why their bookshop supplies suddenly went so unreliable. Dad wrestling a wild boar that's been eating authors. Mum rescuing a book printer who's been kidnapped by pirates. Her and Dad crossing the border into Germany and finding huge piles of really good books propping up wobbly tables.

All right, most of the stories are a bit exaggerated, but they'll still recognize themselves and know I'm their son.

What's that sound?

It's a car or truck, one of those ones that don't need a horse because they've got an engine. It's chugging up the hill. I can hear it getting closer.

There go Sister Elwira and Sister Grazyna across the courtyard to open the gates.

Mum and Dad, you're here at last.

I'm so excited I'm steaming up the window and my glasses. I rub them both with my pajama sleeve.

A car rumbles into the courtyard.

Mum and Dad must have swapped the old bookshop cart for it. Trust them, they've always been modern. They were the first booksellers in the whole district to have a ladder in their shop.

I can hardly breathe.

Half the dormitory are out of bed now, pressing their noses against the windows too. Any second now they'll all see Mum and Dad.

Suddenly I don't care if everyone does know my secret. Perhaps it'll give some of the other kids hope that the authorities might have made a mistake and that their mums and dads might not be dead after all.

That's strange. The car windows are steamed up so I can't see clearly, but it looks like there are more than two people in the car. Mum and Dad must have given Father Ludwik a lift. And a couple of his relatives who fancied a day out.

I can't make out which ones are Mum and Dad.

I hold my notebook up for them to see.

The car doors open and the people get out.

I stare, numb with disappointment.

It's not Mum and Dad. It's just a bunch of men in suits with armbands.

"Felix," says Dodie urgently, grabbing me as I hurry out of the dormitory. "I need your help."

I give him a pleading look. Can't he see I'm doing something urgent too? Finding out from Mother Minka if Mum and Dad sent a note with the carrot saying exactly when they'll be arriving. I've got the carrot with me to jog Mother Minka's memory.

"It's Jankiel," says Dodie. "He's hiding in the toilet."

I sigh. Jankiel's only been here two weeks and he's still very nervous about strangers.

"Tell him there's nothing to worry about," I say to Dodie. "The men in the car are probably just officials from the Catholic head office. They've probably just come to check that all our parents are dead. They'll be gone soon."

I give a careless shrug so Dodie won't see how nervous I am about the officials. And how much I'm desperately hoping Mother Minka remembers the story we agreed on about my parents. About how they were killed in a farming accident. Tragically.

"Jankiel's not hiding from the men in the car," says Dodie. "He's hiding from the torture squad."

Dodie points. Marek, Telek, Adok, and Borys are crowding into the dormitory toilets.

"Come on," says Dodie. "We've got to save him."

Dodie's right. We can't leave Jankiel at the mercy of the torture squad. Marek and the others have been after him since the day he arrived. He's their first new boy to torture in three years and eight months.

Since me.

Dodie shoves the toilet door open. We go in. Marek, Telek, Adok, and Borys have got Jankiel on his knees. Jankiel is pleading with them. His voice is echoing a bit because they've got his head half in the toilet hole.

"Don't struggle," says Telek to Jankiel. "This won't hurt."

Telek's wrong. It will hurt. It hurt when they did it to me three years and eight months ago. Having your head pushed down a toilet hole always hurts.

"Wait," I yell.

The torture squad turn and look at me.

I know that what I say next will either save Jankiel or it won't. Desperately I try to think of something good.

"A horse crushed his parents," I say.

Now the new kid is staring at me too.

I grip my notebook hard and let my imagination take over.

"A great big plow horse," I continue. "It had a heart attack in the mud and fell onto both his parents, and it was too heavy for him to drag off them so he had to nurse them both for a whole day and a whole night while the life was slowly crushed out of them. And do you know what their dying words to their only son were?"

I can see the torture squad haven't got a clue.

Neither does the new kid.

"They asked him to pray for them every day," I say. "At the exact time they died."

I wait for the chapel bell to finish striking seven.

"At seven o'clock in the morning," I say.

Everyone takes this in. The torture squad look uncertain. But they're not pushing anybody down the toilet, which is good.

"That's just one of your stories," sneers Telek, but I can tell he's not so sure.

"Quick," says Dodie, "I can hear Mother Minka coming."

That's a story too because Mother Minka is down in the courtyard with the head office officials. But Marek and the others look even more uncertain. They swap glances, then hurry out of the toilets.

Dodie turns wearily to Jankiel.

"What did we tell you?" says Dodie. "About not coming in here on your own?"

Jankiel opens his mouth to reply, then closes it again. Instead he peers past us, trying to see down into the courtyard.


Excerpted from Once by Morris Gleitzman. Copyright © 2005 Creative Input Pty. Ltd.. Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions:
Chapter 1 (p. 1)
"Once I was living in an orphanage in the mountains and I shouldn't have been and I
almost caused a riot."
1. Describe your first impressions of Felix, Mother Minka and one other character introduced in the opening chapter (consider the traits they appear to possess and your response to meeting them).
2. What is the significance of the carrot and what are Felix's plans for it?
Chapter 2 (p. 9)
"Once I stayed awake all night, waiting for Mom and Dad to arrive."
1. What memories and physical evidence does Felix have of his parent? What beliefs does Felix have of his parents? What beliefs does Felix hold about what happened?
2. Explain the importance of Felix's notebook. Identify 4 things this notebook symbolizes.
Chapter 3 (p.17)
"Once I saw a customer, years ago, damaging books in Mom and Dad's shop. Tearing
pages out. Screwing them up. Shouting things I couldn't understand."
1. Identify two things that unsettle Felix and explain how his thinking starts to change.
2. Felix has plans to help Mom and Dad. What are they and what motivates him to take action?
Chapter 4 (p. 27)
"Once I escaped from an orphanage in the mountains and I didn't have to do any of the
things you do in escape stories."
1. List some of the reasons Felix considers himself "lucky" (p.30)? List things you think he could complain about.
2. What indications are there –recognized or missed by Felix- that something is terribly wrong? What explanations does Felix come up with to make sense of things?
Chapter 5 (p. 38)
"Once I walked all night and all the next day except for short sleep in a forest and all
night again and then I was home."
1. Contrast Felix's dreams with the reality of what he discovers when he makes it home.
2. Describe the range of emotions he experiences. Analyze emotions he observes in other people encountered at this point in the story. How would you classify them
Chapter 6 (p.49)
"Once I walked as fast as I could towards the city to find Mom and Dad and I didn't let
anything stop me. Not until the fire."
1. What changes have taken place in Felix (e.g. more cautious, fearful of Nazis) and how do they influence his actions
2. How does Felix control his anxiety and make use of his story telling ability?
Chapter 7 (p. 57)
"Once I woke up and I was at home in bed. Dad was reading me a story about a boy who
got left in an orphanage. Mom came in with some carrot soup. They both promised they'd
never leave me anywhere. We hugged and hugged."
1. What is the significance of the following: the armbands? Felix's predictions about the future?
2. How does Felix answer his own questions- "Why would the Nazis make people suffer like this just for the sake of some books? (p.64) Why is this the turning point?
Chapter 8 (p. 66)
"Once I spent about 6 hours telling stories to Zelda, to keep her spirits up, to keep my
spirits up, to keep our legs moving as we trudge through the rain towards the city."
1. Why does Felix go from 6 hours of story telling to keeping Zelda's spirits up, to the point where he suddenly hasn't got any more stories" (pg 73)
2. Describe the toll such a journey takes on Felix and Zelda – physically and emotionally. How is it they manage to survive?
Chapter 9 (p.74)
"Once I lay in the street in tears, because the Nazis are everywhere and no grownups can
protect kids from them, not Mom and Dad, not Mother Minka, not Father Ludwik, Not
God, not Jesus, not the Virgin Mary, not the Pope, not Adolf Hitler."
1. Explain what Barney is doing. What sort of person do you think he is? What does he represent?
2. What impact does the realization that no-one can protect the children have on
Felix? How does this affect his belief in the power of stories?"
Chapter 10 (p. 83)
"Once I was living in a cellar in a Nazi city with seven other kids when I shouldn't have
1. Use an example of Felix's behavior or "self-talk" to illustrate his unusual degree of maturity and self-awareness. Explain your reasoning.
2. What story "saved his life" and what connections has he finally made?
Chapter 11 (p. 90)
"Once I escaped from an underground hiding place by telling a story. It was a bit
exaggerated. It was a bit fanciful. It was my imagination getting a big carried away."
1. What lengths does Felix go to when trying to ‘escape'? How does Barney handle it?
2. What does Felix discover about Barney and how does Barney enlist Felix's help?
Chapter 12 (p. 102)
"Once a dentist stopped me from asking a Nazi officer about my parents and I was really
mad at him."
1. Why did Barney stop Felix from asking about his parents? Why do he and Felix decide that Zelda needs to know the truth?
2. Describe the range of reactions the children are showing as result of the traumas each has suffered. How do you feel about the stories shared by the children?
Chapter 13 (p. 111)
"Once I told Zelda a story that made her cry, so I lay on her sack with her for hours and
hours until she fell asleep."
1. Analyze Barney's gesture of giving Felix new boots. What does he mean by what he says (p.112) to Felix? What other "good things" does Felix seem to think he's got and what can you see (e.g. his hope and optimism etc) in him that is good?
2. Felix makes a terrible discovery in the chapter and Barney is forced to tell hi some awful truths about what is going on. What is Felix torn between as he tries to take it all in?
Chapter 14 (p.121)
"Once I loved stories and now I hate them."
1. Describe Felix's state of mind as this chapter opens. Describe your own feelings as you read about his close shaves and what he discovers upon returning to his hideout.
2. The importance of books is emphasized in this chapter. Felix's favorite gets him into terrible danger but other books "save" him. What do books symbolize and mean for Felix?
Chapter 15 (p. 132)
"Once the Nazis found our cellar. They dragged us all out and made us walk through the
ghetto while they pointed guns at us."
1. Barney and Zelda wouldn't go. Why not? Think of three more reasons.
2. What is important to Felix as they head to the railway station? What is important to the others as they are tossed aboard the train?
Chapter 16 (p.141)
"Once I went on my first train journey, but I wouldn't call it exciting. I'd call it painful
and miserable."
1. Once again, a book becomes a "savior" of sorts. Explain how. What is the significance of the fact that Felix is willing to use- and virtually lose- his notebook?
2. What choice and possible outcomes does the hole in the carriage create for the people inside?
Chapter 17 (p. 149)
"Once I lay in a field somewhere in Poland, not sure if I am alive or dead."
1. Felix feels fortunate –However my story turns out, I'll never forget how lucky I
am" (pg. 150). What is your explanation of this?
2. Knowing Felix as you do by the end of the novel, make a prediction of how you think his story might continue to unfold or end.

Customer Reviews

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Once 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 37 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.
jaseD on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
a touching holocaust story through the eyes of youth
meggyweg on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A beautiful and tragic Holocaust story, told through the innocent eyes of a nine-year-old boy. Sheltered in a Polish orphanage, posing as a Catholic, he has no idea what's going on around him until he runs away to find his parents. What he witnesses he at first does not understand, but the reader does and gradually Felix's naiteve is stripped away. If you like Jerry Spinelli's Milkweed, you'll love Once.
MrsSewell on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The childhood innocence in this story reminded me of the award winning movie "Life is Beautiful". A book that can't be put down.
lilibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Felix lives in a Catholic orphanage. He tells himself that his bookseller parents have gone off to find new books for their store. He makes up many stories to try to explain the madness around him. But after running away from the orphanage, he needs to face the truth of what is happening.
sensitivemuse on LibraryThing 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.
renatak on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Felix is a young, Jewish boy living in Poland during the time of Nazi occupation in the 1940s. He is placed in an orphanage in 1939, and three years and eight months later he receives a whole carrot in his soup. He believes this is a sign from his parents, saying that they are finally coming back for him. This immediately inspires him to escape from the orphanage, and journey across Poland in the hope of finding his parents.Whilst he is on his crazy journey, he stumbles upon Nazis, an orphaned young girl, named Zelda, and a dentist who is hiding a group of Jewish children. The fact that Felix is so, unbelievably innocent and naive leads him to think of this horrific time, as simple mistakes or accidents. Experiencing WWII through the eyes of such a young child, allows the reader to see things in a different way. Even though the truth of WWII is not portrayed through the child's viewpoint, it still impacts the reader in an immensely harsh way.I recommend this book to anyone who likes war fiction, as I do. Gleitzman yet again succeeds in writing a fabulous story. He manages to turn WWII into a journey of a young, Jewish boy with his heart set on finding his family.
valfino on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Once, written byu Morris Glietzman is a tragic yet heartwarming story involving a Jewish boy named Felix. Being an orphaned boy during the period of the Holocaust isn't a happy time at the orphanage, yet Felix is known for his storytelling and cheering fellow peers during hard times such as this. After being given a carrot, being EXTREMLY rare at the orphanage, Felix, naive as he is, takes this as a sign of hope, indicating that his parents, Jewish booksellers, are alive and are trying to contact him so with that being, he sets across Germany to find them and himself, moraly.Along the journey, his naive and unmatured mind has led him to believe that ''these angry men, shouting'', Felix referrring them whom of which are known as Nazis have nothing to do with infiltrating the country until the end of the storyline.This book is targeted at ages 14+ as it is needed to be fully understood to get the storyline. It is a great read for everyone who loves books that are based on true events especially on war and I would rate this book a massive 5 stars as it was incredibly moving.
Rivetingreads on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The story of Felix a young Polish Jew who escapes from a Catholic orphanage where his parents had left him almost four years before in the hope that he would be safe from the Nazis. Felix sets out to find his parents and his journey is portrayed in both a humorous and desperately sad way as he comes to terms with exactly what the Nazi invasion and round up of the Jews means.
brokenangelkisses on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is one of those books that I can¿t really explain my interest in. Something somewhere must have attracted me because it ended up on my Amazon wish list and shortly thereafter, as a result of a birthday, on my bookshelf. The other day I was looking for something easy to read and this slim book caught my eye with its bright yellow cover and lure of a quick read.The premiseThe star of David on the front cover and the reference to a Nazi on the back cover make the setting of this book very clear. Writing about the experience of the Holocaust from the perspective of a child is not a new endeavour, but Gleitzman is a popular and successful writer of Young Adult fiction so I hoped that the subject matter would be sensitively handled. After reading, I can confirm that it was.Our narrator is Felix, a young Jewish boy living in an orphanage run by nuns on the top of a mountain in Poland. It quickly becomes clear that he has been hidden there for his own safety by his loving parents, but after three years and eight months Felix seizes upon a small event as a sign of their imminent return. When they don¿t materialise, he finds suitable rationalisations for this and sets out to find them, leaving the relative safety of the orphanage behind him. His journey forms the story.The blurb on the back cover is minimal but hints that he will come into contact with danger. In particular, the note that `Once I made a Nazi with toothache laugh¿ suggests that Felix will not remain free. Given the general knowledge of the horrors of the Holocaust, which schoolchildren in particular are likely to be familiar with thanks to their history curriculum, few readers will be anticipating a happy ending. Therefore, the dominant question of the book is not Felix¿s quest (finding his parents seems incredibly unlikely) but if and how he will survive.Once I escaped an orphanage to find Mum and Dad.Initially I found Felix rather endearing, but my feelings quickly turned to irritation. He was endearing because of his clearly kind nature and his lively imagination, but the same factors soon became a little irksome as they seemed to be so extreme. He has a vivid imagination and for the first part of the story he interprets everything in an extremely positive and often rather ridiculous light. When I learned that he was ten I was stunned ¿ he seemed more like six or so, but perhaps that would be a logical outcome of his sheltered upbringing in the orphanage. Regardless, his conclusions felt extremely illogical for a child this age and, as an adult reader, I was a little frustrated by his naivety.I imagine a younger reader would be less likely to be bothered by this and, despite my irritation, it was an effective approach in that it forces readers to engage with the story. Knowing more than Felix did, I didn¿t want him to leave the orphanage, and this was just the first of many such moments in the story where I felt involved and concerned for the main character. I thought that this was certainly effective in terms of engaging readers.I prefer the latter half of the story where Felix begins to learn a little more about how this world works and his reactions are still exceedingly innocent but more realistic. However, it is also very sad that he has to develop maturity so quickly and before the story ends he has to make some difficult decisions and learn some abhorrent truths. It was genuinely touching to see him forced to develop his view of who the Nazis are and what they want. Along the way Felix meets other characters and this allows Gleitzman to develop his character. This helps to make him a more fully rounded and sympathetic figure. I thought the other characters were convincingly drawn and sufficiently interesting, especially Zelda, a young orphan who likes to think she is wiser than Felix and whose catchphrase is ¿Don¿t you know anything?¿Once I saved a girl called Zelda from a burning houseDespite the subject matter and events the story never felt depressing e
janjan1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An excellent portrayal of the brutality of the Holocaust told through the innocent eyes of a 9 year old Polish boy who gradually understands the reality of the fate of his missing parents. Two more books will finish the series - Now and Then.
jubilant_joy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read this book to my fifth grade students when they are learning about the Holocaust. It is an amazing story of a young Polish boy named Felix who understands nothing about what is happening in his country. As the story unfolds, numerous incidents that he assumes are accidents or mistakes gradually help him understand Hitler and the Nazis for what they truly are. His innocence is heartbreaking and helps helps develop a deeper understanding of the Holocaust through a child's eyes. Although honest, Once is appropriate for older elementary students while still being engaging to adults. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
CaroTheLibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
PLUS - * A powerful, tragic holocaust story narrated by a Jewish Polish boy. * I loved the way in which the story is told - Felix has been protected much of what has been happening in Poland by his parent's who managed to put him in a Catholic orphanage. When he leaves to go in search of his parents a realisation of the horrors people have been through gradually dawns on him. This means that young readers work out the truth along with Felix. * There are lots of parts to make the reader smile - the friendship between Felix and Zelda, and the stories that Felix tells - so it's not a depressing story. It is very emotional though.MINUS - * Readers probably need to know a certain amount of information about the Holocaust to fully understand what is going on, but there are notes at the end of the book. OVERALL - * It's emotionally charged but so well written. As ever, Morris Gleitzman manages to deal with hard hitting subjects with humour and sensitivity.
shell70 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Oh my gosh! This story is so powerful. You will be so moved that you will forget that you are reading this horrifying story but living it! Felix and Zelda's journey will never leave you even after the last page has been read.
jiona on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A story set during the second world war, the narrator being a young Jewish boy who runs away from an orphanage to find his parents.Told in the first person, Gleitzman captures the brutality, violence and tragedy through innocent eyes. In this way, the novel provides a nice counter-point to Boyne's 'The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas', telling the story of this time from a mirror perspective.I thought the book was higly effective, dealing with incidents sensitively, without condescension but through an authentic narrative voice.Great story worth the read, and I look forward to reading the next in the trilogy.
mcgarry on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Yr 7 - Yr 8.World War 2Once I escaped from an orphanage to find Mum and Dad. Once I saved a girl called Zelda from a burning house. Once I made a Nazi with toothache laugh. My name is Felix. This is my story.
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