Friday, August 22, 2014

Review Me Twice: Once by Morris Gleitzman

I know people say you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but those people aren't giving cover designers enough credit. Almost everything you need to know about this very short book is there on that cover. The Star of David and the color scheme and the barbed wire all point to "Holocaust literature!" The little kid doing a balancing act on the barbed wire (excellent visual metaphor, by the way) indicates that we're going to be dealing with child characters. What more do you need to know, really?

I liked this book. I didn't love it, I'm not incredibly compelled to pick up the sequels (Then, After, and Now) but if I happen to see all of them on the shelf at the library at once (ha... once) I might check them out. (Only because they're so short - they're intended for young teens, after all - I could plow through all of them in a day, easily.)

Let's be honest for a second... I usually cry at Holocaust novels. There's a lot to cry about. A lot of really terrible things happened during that period of history, and I think most of them are worth shedding a tear over. This book did not move me to tears. But I don't have a personal connection with children; maybe if I were more maternal, I would have felt differently about the characters. I did think a lot of things were sad, or poignant, or even funny (sure, it's sad that a little boy growing up during WWII doesn't really understand what Hitler is all about, but it allows him to make comments that are a little funny, in hindsight).

So, I don't super highly recommend this one, but if you're looking for a short book from a child's point of view during WWII... you have a weirdly specific wishlist, but this would perfectly fulfill your request.

Holy unreliable narrator, Batman.  Less so for the reader because it's incredibly obvious to us what's going to as opposed to the main character who is, sadly, hopelessly clueless.  

And it is a nice coming of age story, and different than some, because it is so brutal.  Usually coming of age is in a nice little package, some heartbreak happens, but nothing that the main character can't recover from.  Felix gets thrown into a horrific situation and everyone is dying.  His parents could or couldn't be dead, the first child he meets outside of the orphanage, he recovers her from parents that have been shot in the head. He grows up and learns about the war in a quick and violent way that you just can't quite ever go back from.

But, it wasn't a GREAT book.  Of the holocaust literature I've read, it didn't exactly hit me in gut like a lot of it does and I think a big part of that was BECAUSE Felix was so clueless.  Because we saw it from his view it was very naive, very stilted, very... simple.

So, a good book, but not fabulous.

ANNNNDDD, last day to enter our If I Stay signed book giveaway contest!

1 comment:

  1. I have actually never heard of this book, but it sounds interesting. I've said it before, but I also have an interest in Holocaust literature, since its been a strong part of my childhood education in Sunday School. I might check this one out.