Sunday, February 5, 2012

THEN by Morris Gleitzman

On Tuesday, I'll be chatting with Australian, author Morris Gleitzman who won a Sydney Taylor Honor Award for  THEN .

The Australian cover (left) with American version (right)

THEN is a book about surviving the worst of times.  It starts out running - literally.  The first sentence is:
Then we ran for our lives, me and Zelda, up a hill as fast as we could.

Which wasn't very fast.

But the pace of this story is fast.  Ten year-old Felix yanks us into his life and drags us through the horror. And we follow because we care.

THEN is a sequel to ONCE but the story stands on its own and Felix tells us immediately where ONCE left off.  

You know how when you and two friends jump off a train that's going to a Nazi death camp and you nearly knock yourself unconscious but you manage not to and your glasses don't even get broken but your friend Chaya isn't so lucky and she gets killed so you bury her under some ferns and wildflowers, which takes a lot of strength, and you haven't got much energy left for running and climbing?

Well, no.  Actually I have no idea what this is like. But never mind; Felix makes me forget that. 

That's how it is now for me and Zelda.

He takes me right into his ten-year old soul where I witness the horrors of Nazi domination and still almost believe in a good outcome.  His optimism gets me through.

At first the story feels surrealistic because I'm not used to facing bullets and running from Nazi's with the comical approach that the author uses. But truly this place (Poland) in this time (1941) was surrealistic. The humor, which largely grows out of Felix' innocence and storytelling style, helps us to confront the reality of a "unreal" situation.

I won't recap the story.  Just know that Felix at age 10 takes on the care of 6 year-old Zelda whose survival methods sometimes conflict with his.  Felix is a storyteller and his stories give Zelda courage to take each next step. The children meet good people along the way. And conflicted ones.  And evil.

If you've got to introduce kids to the Holocaust (and YES you must) then Felix is a trustworthy, delightful narrator.  You will laugh out loud and cry deep inside. But Felix and his stories will see you through.  

Morris Gleitzman is a masterful storyteller and his words are way more powerful than mine so stop by on Tuesday to hear directly from him.  See you then!


  1. I really rely on reviews like these for discovering new-to-me authors. Thank you so much.

  2. Vijaya, I have a feeling you will love this author!

  3. These books are strangely heartbreakingly wonderful, aren't they? Maybe it is the way Gleitzman maintains Felix's voice all the way though both books so well. You are right, Felix makes you laugh out loud and cry inside.
    Can't wait to read your review tomorrow.

  4. Alex, for more heartbreakingly wonderful story, read the opening excerpt from NOW at Morris' website.

    I am so grateful for more in this series.

  5. great review. makes me want to read both books.

  6. Carol, they will knock the stuffin' out of you!

  7. This book will definitely go on my list of "to read" books! Thanks for acquainting me with it, Joyce. And I look forward to your interview tomorrow with the author.

  8. Thanks so much for this review, Joyce. My TBR list just gets longer and longer, but I will move these two up to the top.

  9. Peggy and Rosi, thanks for checking in. I hope you are able to read this series and I'd love to hear how it impacts you. In fact I welcome a guest blog from either of you on the topic.

  10. Joyce,
    I look forward to your interview with Morris Gleitzman. This was such a wonderful lead in. You have me on the edge of my seat. I'll definitely look for these book titles. Thanks so much!