Gleitzman, Morris. New York: Henry Holt, 2010 9780805090260
Quantitative Reading Level: Lexile 640, Fountas and Pinnell Y
Qualitative Reading Analysis:
I would rate this as Middle High on the “Text Complexity: Qualitative Measures Rubric for Literary Text”. The book has several layers of meaning and is quite complex. What makes it so complex is that the narrator is a young boy who is very naïve. The reader often needs to use his own background knowledge to figure out what is really happening to the boy and the people around him because the boy does not fully understand. As an example the boy narrowly misses an execution of a group of Jews and actually goes toward the sound of the guns because he thinks he will find his mum and dad there. He arrives too late and thinks the blood in the river is from hunters catching rabbits. A reader would really need a good understanding of the Holocaust and some of the things done to the Jewish people in order to interpret what is going on with Felix.
At the beginning of the story Felix is living in hiding at a Catholic orphanage. But when he finds a carrot in his soup he wrongly assumes it is from his parents and that they are coming to get him. He then decides to go find them in order to save them from the Nazis who he believes are after book selling Jews. As Felix wanders throughout Poland he narrowly escapes several threats from the Nazis. This book is told through his eyes and his perception of life as a story. It is a fascinating look at the war through an innocent child. Through it all he holds onto hope and love for the other children around him.
Content Area: Social Studies - Holocaust
Content area standard:
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.6 Compare the point of view of two or more authors for how they treat the same or similar topics, including which details they include and emphasize in their respective accounts.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.9 Compare and contrast treatments of the same topic in several primary and secondary sources.
MCCL SS.03.WHD.01.02 Understands the significance of major turning points of select international wars and their implications.
MCCL SS.04.WHR.01.02 Understands how the interrelation of various religions has impacted world history.
This book would be a great book to use in a study of World War II and the Holocaust. Students could look at how Felix views the events surrounding him and compare to other fiction and nonfiction accounts. Students could analyze his role as a narrator and how much of what he says can be believed.
Book Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3jW_1msW0cY
Morris Gleitzman talks about characters: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vrh_UN8SEuM
I really enjoyed this book. I have read a lot of books about the Holocaust but it was interesting to see the events through the eyes of a naïve child. There were several times that I held my breath because Felix was unknowingly walking into a dangerous situation. It was interesting to figure out what was really happening. I listened to the audio version of the book and the narrator was the author which was also very cool. I loved how every chapter started as “Once….”. This was very well done.
Subjects/Themes: Holocaust, Coming of Age, War, Loss of Innocence
Series Information: This is the first of 4 books. The sequels are Now, Then, and After.
High Interest Annotation: Once, a boy Felix was left by his parents at a Catholic orphanage for his protection. But then he left in order to find them and save them. Once, a naïve child experiences the horrors of the Holocaust.