Felix, a Jewish kid, has spent the past three years in a Catholic orphanage ever since his bookseller parents dropped him off here. But when he realizes his parents haven't come to take him out (having mistaken the carrot as a sign that they soon would), he takes it upon himself to find them, wherever they are. The problem is that we're in Nazi-occupied Poland and the protective bubble where Felix has spent the last three years has left him naive and ignorant of everything that goes on. His naivete may recall, for some, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, but given his situation, it is much more believable, and not long-lasting. As he tries to return to his hometown and find his parents, he's understandably shocked at how everything has changed.
Beloved Australian author Morris Gleitzman (of whose books I clearly need to read more!) has written a searing yet compulsively readable high middle grade/ low YA historical fiction book that was beyond captivating for me. Anyone who recognizes the power of storytelling and fiction, will sympathize with Felix, whose imagination and capacity for telling stories gives him a chance. This is a book that's perfect for those readers to whom you want to recommend fellow Aussie Markus Zusak's The Book Thief, but fear that its heft will put them off. Simply, yet gorgeously written, with images and characters that you won't soon forget, this novel seriously impressed me.
I think it's time to find out what other Morris Gleitzman books have been published in the United States.
***UPDATE - Once is book one in a trilogy about Felix. I seriously hope that the others will be published in the United States in the future, but that's not the same as me admitting that I might look for them on Amazon.co.uk!***