Middle grade book review – Once, by Morris Gleitzman

by | Apr 12, 2019

My book recommendation for April is one that both myself and my reluctant reader approve of. She read it in a few days, which, for someone who can take weeks-to-months to read a book, is a huge achievement.

Book recommendation for April, Once, by Morris Gleitzman - Nikki Young

There are two reasons why she flew through Once, by Morris Gleitzman. The first, is that it’s not very long. The second, is that it is such an interesting and compelling story.

Told from the point of view of a young Jewish boy in Second World War Poland, there is such a sad naivety to this story.

Placed in a mountain-based Catholic orphanage for safety, the boy is completely sheltered from the horrors of Natzi-occupied Poland and believes his parents left him there whilst they went to talk to the Germans about stocking more books in their bookshop.

It’s not until German soldiers visit the orphanage to take away their books, does the boy feel he has to go and warn his parents that they might be coming to take away theirs too. He has no idea of the extent to which the people of his country are being persecuted, nor to the dangers he is releasing himself into by attempting to get to krakow. This is slowly revealed to him, however, as he makes his way back home, and it is this journey of realisation and discovery that keeps you so locked in to the story.

Once, is a truly heartbreaking tale and one that remains with you long after you’ve finished reading.

At only 160 pages, Once is a manageable story for those who struggle with longer-text books, or find them overwhelming. Yet what you get from this book, is a compelling World War Two tale from the point of view of a young boy, who has to grow up so quickly when he goes from a place of relative safety, to one that nightmares are made of.

War is a horror no one should experience, let alone a child.

It is the children that are caught up in war, who have their childhood taken away from them, stripped away as though it is nothing. Once, is a story that a child of today could scarcely believe every happened, let alone, imagine. Yet it did, and it is important that they appreciate that.

Here’s what my daughter says about this book:

‘I liked this book because I found it easy to read. Also, I enjoy historical fiction, particularly stories set in the Second World War. The main character of this book was interesting because he knows so little about what is going on around him, but he finds out in his own way, which is really sad and I felt sorry for him having to learn about the truth.’


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