Marjorie Ingall's Reviews > Once

Once by Morris Gleitzman
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's review
Nov 30, 10

bookshelves: boys-9-12, kids-9-12, middle-grade-to-ya
Read in November, 2010

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.
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Dana I completely agree with you about The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. This book is a much better representation of the horrors of the Holocaust.

message 2: by [deleted user] (new)

Nice review!

I'm a bit lost on your grammatical quibble though. The subject "Anyone" doesn't appear in the sentence. If you are refering instead to "Everybody", what possessive adjective would you replace "their" with?

I agree, it is a schmaltzy epigraph though...

Vicki Senzon I have discovered that there is a fourth book in what had been a trilogy. I loved Once and Then. Now required reflection to appreciate. I am eagerly waiting to receive my copy of After which was written later than the other three but chronologically places Felix in between Then and Now.

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