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Once (Once Series) Hardcover – March 30, 2010

4.7 out of 5 stars 58 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 6–9—Felix lives in Poland in 1942, and reading is his survival mechanism. Now almost 10, he was sent to a Catholic orphanage three years and eight months earlier by his Jewish bookstore-owning parents, and he's convinced himself that the sole reason he remains in hiding is because Nazis hate books. He's a natural storyteller, and when he finds a full carrot in what is typically a woefully thin bowl of soup, he fantasizes that it's a sign from his parents that they're finally on their way to take him home. When the orphanage is visited by surly Nazis instead of joyous parents, Felix escapes with only his cherished notebook full of his stories into the nearby countryside, still hoping for a family reunion. He soon discovers a burning home with two slain adults in the yard and their young daughter bruised but still alive. He takes Zelda on his journey, shielding her from the reality of her parents' deaths in much the same way he's been comforting himself, by inventing alternative realities. But, as he encounters the escalating ugliness of the death marches that are emptying his old neighborhood, now a ghetto, Felix becomes increasingly conflicted about the need to imagine a hopeful order and the need to confront brutal reality head-on. An easy first-person narrative in terms of reading level—and a good choice as a read-aloud—this Holocaust story also taps gut-punching power by contrasting the way in which children would like to imagine their world with the tragic way that life sometimes unfolds.—Jeffrey Hastings, Highlander Way Middle School, Howell, MI
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

The horror of the Holocaust is told here through the eyes of a Polish Jewish child, Felix, who loses his innocence as he witnesses Nazi-led roundups, shootings, and deportations. After nearly four years in a kind Catholic orphanage, he runs away to find his parents. First he returns home, where he is chased away by new residents. Then he journeys to the city (that is, the ghetto), gets help from other fugitives, discovers the Nazis’ incomprehensible brutality, and is forced into a train bound for the camps. Through Felix’s traumatized, present-tense viewpoint, readers learn of the genocide, in which books and bodies were burned en masse, as well as one victim at a time, including a baby who is shot dead in its high chair. Most moving is the lack of any idealization. Felix rescues a lost little girl, but rather than idolize him, she fights and fumes: Don’t you know anything? Felix escapes, but one and a half million Jewish children did not, and this gripping novel will make readers want to find out more about them. Grades 7-10. --Hazel Rochman
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 - 18 years
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 640L (What's this?)
  • Series: Once Series (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR); 1 edition (March 30, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805090266
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805090260
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,316,764 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Lawral Wornek on April 6, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Booktalk:
Once there was a boy named Felix who lived at an orphanage in Poland, only he wasn't an orphan. Almost four years ago Felix's secret alive parents left him with Mother Minka, at the orphanage, so they could travel and find out why their bookstore had to close.

Once Nazis came to the orphanage and burned all the Jewish books in the library. Then Felix knew the answer to his parents' problem. See, Felix not only has secret alive parents, he's also secretly Jewish. Maybe if his parents sold more books that the Nazis liked, their bookstore wouldn't have to close.

Armed with this revelation, Felix leaves the orphanage to find his parents. Instead of them helping and protecting him, maybe Felix can save them, just this Once.

Review:
Doesn't the whole premise of this book stress you out? It stressed me out. For a book of 163 pages* I had to put it down more than a couple of times because I was just too nervous for Felix. He was so young when his parents left him at the orphanage. This is, presumably, why they didn't tell him why they were really leaving him in the hands of a bunch of nuns, and the nuns certainly didn't tell him either. How could they? How could they explain that to 6 year old Felix when he entered the orphanage? Besides, if Felix didn't pray to God, Jesus, the Virgin Mary, the Pope and Adolf Hitler like the rest of the orphans, he'd stand out.

It was heartbreaking to watch Felix do things like return to his family's home in what used to be a Jewish neighborhood, try to flag down a truckload of soldiers when he needs help, or pray to Adolf Hitler to keep him safe, as he's been taught to do. He really has no idea what is going on in Poland and the rest of Europe. He has no idea that at ten years old he is a hunted man.
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Format: Hardcover
What an amazing book. Hearing the story of the holocaust told in the voice of a 10 year old child is heart breaking. Felix is a boy of amazing imagination and he wears his imaginative story telling ability like a suit of armour that protects him from the atrocities that he sees around him. He makes up stories about why his parents would have left him at a Catholic orphanage, about why a nazi soldier would shoot at him, and why the nazis would hate the jewish people. His attempts to make sense of something that doesn't make sense is a chilling reminder of all the innocent children who lost their lives. Watching Felix lose his innocence and realize the horrible truth about what probably happened to his parents will bring tears to your eyes. The strength of this book is Felix's narrative voice. He is so incredibly believable that it's somewhat surprising to read in the author's note that Felix wasn't a real boy. The most startling thing is that through it all, Felix is steadfast in his belief in good - that he has something good in his life and has all along. This is an inspiring read that I believe would be perfect for young middle schoolers. It would be a great way to introduce this time period to 5th or 6th graders. Just as compelling and well written as The Boy Who Dared (geared toward a bit older audience).
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
When I found myself having to choose between Morris Gleitzman books to teach my year seven girls this year, I was not thrilled to have to pick this one because the numbers in the class matched the number of books in the box. Another Holocaust book! I'd done 'Briar Rose' with a recalcitrant year 12 class and 'The Book Thief' with an eager year 10 class. And Gleitzman! I could not imagine how he could do justice to the truth and still be Gleitzman with his quirky irreverent characters. So I was pleasantly surprised to be as enthralled with the book (then the next and the next and the now) as my students were. The horror was there, but my students were not overwhelmed by it. The comments after were about having understood something of what it was like to live through awful times. I will teach it again.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
My 7th graders sat on the edge of their seats when I read this aloud at the end of the year! I used the document camera so they could follow along, and I had a "During Reading" worksheet where after every two chapters they had to write a connection, prediction, summary, or question. It's an endearing story with characters that my students really seem to get involved with and have sympathy and appreciation for what it must have been like to be a child during the Holocaust. I teach a small group class of students with learning disabilities.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Easy yet provocative reads about a Jewish child's survival in Poland from 1939-1945. This series was written for YA Ages 10-15, however, they were an excellent read, even for this adult. I will be donating these 3 books to our local school elementary library. I really like the last in trilogy, Now, which tells of Felix's years as a grandfather in Australia during the Great Bush Fires of 2007.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
When I was in high school, I went to Germany on a school trip. In Germany, we went to Dachau, a concentration camp that has been turned into a memorial/museum. The emotions I felt at Dachau have never left me. The vast camp was completely silent except for the crunch of visitors' feet on the gravel. The pain within those gates was so strong, we couldn't even speak to one another. But more and more, I find my students are finding themselves disconnected from the Holocaust. Sure, they know the mass murder to millions of people is horrendous, but they really can't fathom the fear and agony felt by so many. We read books, we watch movies, but it is hard to grasp the same emotions I felt the moment I stepped foot into Dachau so many years ago. Therefore, as an educator, it becomes very hard to find quality books that will knock my students around emotionally the same way Night by Elie Wiesel did the first time I read it in high school. Once, by Morris Gleitzman knocked me around, and will certainly open the eyes of any jaded student.

It's 1942, and Felix has lived in a Polish Orphanage for 3 years and 8 months since his parents left him there. They are Jewish and owned a bookstore in town, but they made a deal with Mother Minka to hide Felix, but they told him they were just going to take care of some bookstore business and be back. They still haven't returned. So Felix passes the day writing stories about them saving people and being brave in the outside world. When Felix gets a whole carrot in his soup one day, he decides it is a sign from his parents that they are coming to get him. When Mother Minka sadly tells him it isn't a sign, he decides to leave the orphanage to find them.
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