Tuesday, July 17, 2012


By Morris Gleitzman
Henry Holt, 2012. 184 pgs. Young Adult

Zelda has recently been sent to live with her grandfather, Felix, while her parents, both doctors, go to Darfur to offer their medical expertise there. Zelda was named for Felix's best friend, who died as a young girl in the Holocaust. Now Zelda-the-granddaughter is trying to be as brave as her namesake, as she's being bullied by a girl from school, and to bring happiness into her grandfather's life. However, she comes to realize that Felix's story and his emotions are still very much influenced by the first Zelda, and both Felix and granddaughter Zelda find themselves facing the past in order to have a future.

This follow-up book to Once and Then is just as haunting as the others; it has the same elements of hope and hurt and loss and love that make the others utterly unforgettable. Having fallen so much in love with Felix in the other books, which are from his point of view as a child, I was a little worried to switch narrators now, but I loved granddaughter Zelda, too. Gleitzman captures the complexity and simplicity of childhood beautifully, showing that innocent way of looking at life juxtaposed with insights and thoughts that adults often never manage to come up with. I really liked how he gave readers the chance to see how 70 years later, Felix still had a lot of baggage to deal with and also related that to Zelda's life now as she's being bullied. There are lots of books about the Holocaust out there, but I think this series is the cream of the crop. With unforgettable narrators, the pure voices of children facing the hardships of life, these books are simply a work of art that will reach inside your soul and touch you in a way that only a few books can. Although the books have a certain chronological order, Gleitzman explained that he has written them so that they can be read in any order.


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