Book - 2005
Average Rating:
Rate this:
After living in an Catholic orphanage for nearly four years, a naive Jewish boy runs away and embarks on a journey across Nazi-occupied Poland to find his parents.
Publisher: 2005
ISBN: 9780805090260
Branch Call Number: YAFICTION Gleitzman


From Library Staff

After living in an Catholic orphanage for nearly four years, a naive Jewish boy runs away and embarks on a journey across Nazi-occupied Poland to find his parents. This is followed by Then and Now.

From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Apr 02, 2018

4.5 Stars. It's simplicity is its strength. The voice of Felix and then Zelda are poignant and truthful in a way that only children can be. I have read dozens of Holocaust stories but this one was exceptional in its telling. My daughter read it first and suggested it to me. We have the next two books on hold from the library. Excellent.

SCL_Justin Jul 19, 2017

Once, by Morris Gleitzman, is a YA holocaust story with a naive young narrator who’s good at telling stories. The story starts with Felix in an orphanage and he’s trying to cheer up the other orphans by telling them stories about his bookselling parents. The thing is that he’s a Jewish kid sent to a Catholic orphanage to hide. He’s convinced his parents are out on a bookselling adventure and are sending him messages.

Then the Nazis show up and he escapes. He finds a burning house and saves a little girl and then they’re marched off to a ghetto in the city. More stuff happens and Felix loses faith in the power of stories, even while he helps an underground dentist.

It’s really hard not to compare this with The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and it comes out ahead in pretty much every way. Felix is naive and believes some things we know are untrue (and he prays to God Jesus Mary and Adolf Hitler all in one breath), but he’s also clever. There are many things Felix doesn’t understand but you don’t get ticked off at him for it. You can see him trying to keep just ahead of the situation, and wonder at the doublethink that’s helping him survive. The language feels much less like an Englishman approximating what German-speakers might say. The whole book felt much more real, so if you liked The Boy in the Striped Pajamas you should really give Once a look.

Apr 14, 2016

This is an amazing book. Felix is a gorgeous character. If you haven't read this book you should. You'll laugh and you'll cry. You won't forget this book soon.

Aug 29, 2014

Really exciting book that i couldn't put down! Cant wait to read the the rest of the series! A must read book!!!!!

Feb 06, 2014

A well-written book with graphic details illustrating a young Jewish boy's love and his will to survive in Nazi-occupied Poland. It is a book you won't forget.

bandblair Sep 24, 2013

The author really captured the voice of a child during such horrific events.

This book will rip at your heart. It is a must read, but be prepared for your heart to ache. Excellent descriptions and character building.

McIndoo Mar 30, 2013

This is probably the saddest children's book I've ever read, but it was also a very well written and imaginative story. It read as genuine and at times gently humorous. The idea of inventing stories and using storytelling to get through horrible and painful events was what made the book unique and the story bearable. I would recommend it for an older school-age child who has already learned a little bit about the Holocaust in order to fully understand the story.

Mar 09, 2013

Tremendously horrific, honest account of the Holocaust that depicts the gory brutality that took the lives of a generation of people senselessly. The optimistic William is a shining light in a very dismal time.

Jan 05, 2013

This book was amazing and scary because it is based on true life. I liked Zelda the best because she was gutsy and I didn't like the Nazis shooting all those children.

View All Comments


Add Age Suitability
Apr 14, 2016

HermioneSmith thinks this title is suitable for 10 years and over

Aug 29, 2014

katie0808 thinks this title is suitable for 12 years and over

May 02, 2014

GreenElephantGirl thinks this title is suitable for 10 years and over

pennyl1ne May 03, 2011

pennyl1ne thinks this title is suitable for 10 years and over


Add a Summary
Apr 14, 2016

Felix is a Jew, in World War 2. He is sent to live in a catholic orphanage so he will be safe from the Nazis. He escapes from the orphanage and goes to find his mum and dad. On the way he makes a good friend Zelda. This is a good book.

May 07, 2011

Once, by Morris Gletizman, is a book about a nine-year-old Jewish boy who escaped from a Catholic orphanage planning to find his parents. It is set in 1942, during World War II, when Adolf Hitler tried to eliminate the Jewish population in Europe. During this time of the Holocaust, Hitler’s supporters, the Nazis, killed many Jews and people who helped them. The story is written from the perspective of a young boy, called Felix, trying to understand what was really happening around him. The story ends when Felix and his friend Zelda jump from the train that was carrying the Jews to the concentration camp.


Add Notices
May 02, 2014

Other: Series: (1) Once (2) Then (3) Now (4) After. Also some frightening content and violence, but nothing too bad.


Add a Quote
May 02, 2014

A little hope goes a long way.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at OPL

To Top