Blurb: A little hope goes a long way. I had a plan for me and Zelda. Pretend to be someone else. Find new parents. Be safe forever. Then the Nazis came. My name is Felix. This is our story.
Author: Morris Gleitzman
Publisher: Puffin Books, owned by Penguin Group
Genre: Fiction, Historical, Children’s
This book is the second in the series (beginning with Once which you can find my review of here), following the life of Felix, a Jewish boy trying to survive in Nazi-occupied Poland. In this instalment of his journey, Felix finds himself with the idea that everything will be ok if he manages to find new parents for himself and Zelda, but of course, during this period of history nothing is as easy as it sounds.
Similarly to the first book, there was so much that I loved. Gleitzman has such a talent for writing from Felix’s perspective, keeping a brilliantly paced story with the added innocence of a bewildered child, found in a situation that is totally foreign. Felix’s inner monologue, via which we are told his story, is truly haunting in the way that it was written and there are several instances in which I found myself wishing to be able to whisk the characters away from their situation. This kind of emotive writing goes a long way to making up the utter brilliance of this book, and series, by giving a heart to the story and characters. The characters were well written, the personality of each one adding something to the story – Felix’s maturity, Zelda’s stubbornness and Genia’s tough but motherly attitude. As with Once, I must commend the author on his research into this period and the experiences of those who suffered through it. It is obvious that Gleitzman is committed to telling this story to the best of his ability.
More practically, just like the first, this book isn’t very long so can be read quickly depending on your reading speed and may be useful if you find shorter books helps you to get over a reading slump. The plot advances fairly quickly so we don’t spend a lot of time waiting around for things to happen. Once again, I feel that this may have been a technique employed by the author to give a feel to how fast these events actually escalated and continued to do so. The font size isn’t too small either which is helpful for anyone who finds tiny prints difficult.
As for what I disliked about this book, I genuinely can’t come up with anything. The topic is harrowing and thought-provoking but most definitely one that I believe should be talked about. The main reason for the rating of this book being ever so slightly lower than the first is the setting. In Once, we are exposed to the Jewish ghettos and the train to Auschwitz, whereas this book mostly takes place in the Polish countryside. Despite obviously understanding the continuation, the setting seemed to ring less of an emotional response from me. This isn’t to say that I didn’t like the setting, just that it didn’t make me as emotional as that from the first book. The one ‘downside’ (and I use that term loosely) was that I didn’t find myself in tears. There are moments that triggered that stone cold feeling in my chest, where I had to reread a few sentences to fully absorb them and their meaning but there were no tears like I experienced with the first book. This may be because as we watch Felix’s resolve harden to the outside world, we, as the reader, do that along with him. The bad things remain awful but we are of the shared understanding that this cannot be the end. For me, this didn’t particularly take anything away from my love of this book and made me eager to see Felix succeed and carry on with reading the other books in the series.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would say that it is well worth the read for everyone, regardless of age or how interested you are in world history. Our understanding of this period of time is so important in ensuring that we don’t let it happen again so I urge you to pick up this series, especially if you’re not into the idea of textbooks.
Have you read this book? What did you think? Have you read any of the books that come after this one? I’d love to know!