Once by Morris Gleitzman

Yesterday I took my daughter to the library and had a dig through the Junior fiction shelves and stumbled upon Once. It is a book I’ve heard so much about but never picked up before. I know I am years late to the party on this one, but that’s the joy of libraries – you come across gems like this entirely by accident. And that’s one of the many reasons that libraries are vital in every community…but that’s another rant for another time.

Last night I devoured Once and then immediately downloaded the next book in the series onto my phone. And I devoured that too. This morning I am a bit blurry eyed and downloading the third book. I am totally under Gleitzman’s spell.

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“Once 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.”

These are powerful books. Harrowing, yes. But also moving and affirming.

The way Gleitzman uses childhood innocence and imagination against the backdrop of nazi brutality is what makes Once shine for me. In SF Said’s brilliant piece in the Guardian this week, he said “re-reading is a given for children’s authors. It’s one reason why we try to write books that have many layers and work on different levels, rewarding re-reading by growing richer each time.” And that is where the child’s perspective excels in these books. The layering and contradiction of the reader’s awareness and the characters’ innocence is hard to bear but it’s also what makes this book so successful and what is making me itch to start on book three, Now.

Source- my lovely local library.

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2 thoughts on “Once by Morris Gleitzman

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  1. ‘Once’ is one of my all time favourite books and Maurice Gleitzman a hero of mine! I just don’t know how he pulls it off – but you’re right – he uses innocence and imagination against brutality and in spite of bringing us face to face with absolutely awful, heart breaking events, leaves us with a sense of Hope. He is amazing.

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