I did not want to like Once. I hated that cover line: “Everybody deserves to have something good in their life. At least once.” Damn it, “anyone” does not agree with “their”! Even if I am the last person fighting this battle I will continue to fight it! GAH! But um, more importantly, Once sounded to me like a rehash of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, a book I loathed. Children (and adults) do not need faux-naif, manipulative, emotionally inauthentic Holocaust books. I’d thought Once was about an equally clueless protagonist. I was wrong. Felix, a Jewish boy in Poland in 1942, isn’t an idiot. He’s in denial. There's a difference. And as the book goes on and the horrors mount, Felix’s denial evaporates. Storytelling has been his shield and survival strategy. As he loses that ability to tell himself truth-deflecting stories, you feel sick. The pacing of this book is incredible – Gleitzman is known in his native Australia for writing funny, goofy contemporary children’s books – and the book’s short paragraphs and use of humor (no, really) will make it super-enticing to boys and non-book-lovers. But be forewarned, the Nazis’ brutality is explicit and disgusting; this should not be any child’s first Holocaust novel. (Start with Number the Stars instead.) Once, which is influenced by the story of Janusz Korczak, offers no false hope.