Rating: High Four
Who I'd Recommend to: Fans of the War That Saved My Life, Breaking Stalin's Nose, the Devil's Arithmetic, and Jerry Spinelli's Milkweed.
Synopsis (from Amazon):
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 They must be foreign librarians sent to clean out the orphanage's outdated library.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.
Felix is probably one of my favorite literary characters this year. He's so hopeful and innocent, and is always willing to help out others. My book club group had a long conversation about him, actually, because he's such a brilliant character (to talk about, but also, just in general). The writing was also brilliant, and so was the heartbreaking yet utterly hopeful story. If Snow Treasure is an excellent introduction to World War II for young children, than Once would be the next stepping stone. I absolutely adored this book, and I do think it censored a lot of the violence and horrors that occurred to Jews during the War, while still touching on it. I was held rapt the entire time, listening to Felix's stories, feeling heartbroken for him, and being fascinated and puzzled with the story. I think Once squeezed out enough emotion from me to fill up Yosemite National Park (not tears, but still very heartfelt). It's written in a way that anyone can understand and follow along with, and Gleitzman gives Felix a wonderful voice. All in all, one of my favorite World War II books I've read!