Thursday, September 29, 2011

Then - Morris Gleitzman

Title: Then (sequel to Once)
Author: Morris Gleitzman
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company, 2010 (Hardcover)
Length: 198 pages
Genre: Children's Historical Fiction
Started: September 28, 2011
Finished: September 28, 2011

Felix and Zelda have escaped the train to the death camp, but where do they go now? They're two runaway kids in Nazi-occupied Poland. Danger lies at every turn of the road.

With the help of a woman named Genia and their active imaginations, Felix and Zelda find a new home and begin to heal, forming a new family together. But can it last?

Morris Gleitzman's winning characters will tug at readers' hearts as they struggle to survive in the harsh political climate of Poland in 1942. Their lives are difficult, but they always remember what matters: family, love, and hope.

I fell in love with Once last year because it was so poignant and the writing was beautiful (thanks mainly to Felix's voice). Then takes off where Once left off, Felix and Zelda jump off the train headed toward the concentration camp and realize they need to find a place where they'll be taken care of. They come across Nazi soldiers at a mass grave of Jewish children and flee to the neighbouring town where they are taken in by Genia. Genia's an interesting character because she is anti-Semitic and yet hates the Nazis more because they hurt children. Felix and Zelda must take on new identities in the town and blend in as much they can to prevent from being discovered, and with Jews tormented and killed everyday, the possibility that they might meet the same fate grows more apparent.

Then has the same unique innocent yet not quality of writing that Once had. Felix is more aware in this book as opposed to the previous one, he's already lost his innocence, but he holds back for Zelda's sake, and softens things without completely sugarcoating them, it's an interesting balance.

Beautiful, just like it's predecessor. The ending might be a bit much for sensitive readers, so be aware (as much as I can say without spoilers).

Thoughts on the cover:
Grittier and bolder than the Australian cover of Once from my previous review, the domestic covers obviously underwent an overhaul to make them more appealing. The cover of Once was also redesigned to match this one: the Once cover features just Felix on the barbed wire against a gray background.

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