Once and Then Book Review (More like Once I cried, Then I cried some more)

Finally, I get around to reviewing the books I borrowed and read on a dare. Yay!

The problem is that this specific book is so good, I can’t just review it. Or rather, these specific books.

Once is its own book, and Then is a book by itself. They’re just smushed into one cover. Funny, ain’t it? There’s a whole series by Gleitzman, Once, Then, Now, After, Soon, Maybe- I really need to read the rest. I mean, these two alone shredded me.

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If you’ve ever read The Boy In The Striped Pajamas, then you already get the setting for these books. Sorta. They travel a bunch of places. But war-you can’t avoid it. It’s everywhere. Through a child’s eyes, however, it’s a whole other story.

Felix. Good ole young, hopeful, naïve Felix. Just a kid in an orphanage whose parents are sure to pick him up after they find a safe place to store their books, right? Well, add in Kristallnacht, the night of broken glass and the fact he’s Jewish and the fact there’s soldiers everywhere, and it gets a little trickier.

But see, Felix doesn’t know why there’s a war or why everything’s happening the way it is. To Felix, it’ll all be okay in the end. So until that end comes, he’ll content himself with his stories and wait.

Ayyy, if only he did. If only he didn’t see the soldiers take those books away and burn ’em up. Then maybe he wouldn’t have done what he did and none of the heartbreak happened.

But then again, sometimes the hero needs to make choices he can’t ever take back. More on that in another post. Anyway, Felix ends up doing just that.

Morris Gleitzman Quote: “Everybody deserves to have something good in their life. At least once.”

I’ve always loved studying WWII, and reading fiction from that genre. I don’t know why. This period, this time, it’s special for me. I don’t really have any reason. I’m just one of the many lives forever affected by that war ending. I’m more especially interested in the people whose lives were directly affected by the war. Real or fictional. Especially since fictional often is heavily based on the real.

Especially because fiction opens our eyes to how bad the real thing was.

Anyway, thoughts specifically on the book:

I loved the style of writing this was written in. As you can guess, every chapter in the book starts with the word “once”. Except Then. Then every word in Then starts with “then.” Okay, that’s confusing, but read the book and you’ll get what I’m saying. XD

The characters oh my word they were so well written I can’t even. Felix, Zelda, personwhosenameIcan’tsaybecausespoilers, otherpersonwhosenameIcan’tsayforsamereason, they all had depth, they all had arcs, and just- ahhh it seemed so.. real. They carried the story so well.

I loved the perspective this was written in. POV. Whatever. Like The Boy In the Striped Pajamas, this is through the eyes of a boy who has to grow up too fast. A boy who’s naïve, and hopeful, and dreaming, and basically every kid ever. Seeing everything he does through his eyes opened my eyes.

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Zelda ahhh this kid is a well written 6 year old and she’s just really adorable and great and.. so sad.

Once and Then shows an amount of slightly violent stuff, like kids all being dead and guns and knives and -okay, erase slightly. It is violent, because the war was violent, and none of what happened should ever be whitewashed. Ever.

And yet, despite everything, there’s hope. Felix, as young and naïve and childish (oh come on, he IS a child) is so.. hopeful. And that hope is seen in trace amounts throughout the book. And that’s something I really, really loved in this bittersweet, hard hitting novel about a kid who was forever changed by WWII. Maybe he wasn’t in real life, but somebody was.

We shouldn’t forget that.

Life is a highway,

Jo

 

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Lest We Forget

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And here you see me trying to talk about something that I am certain to mess up. Here goes.

War. It’s something we fear, we prepare for, and hope never comes. Maybe that’s why we celebrate Victory Days and Veterans’ Day with solemnness, maybe why there’s a field full of crosses and stars people visit every year.

Y’know, with WW2, especially, came something that was so evil and wrong, it became a reason to fight. The Holocaust.

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Way back in summer, when my sister took my brother and I to the Royal Ontario Museum, we entered an exhibit that still makes me shut up thinking about it. The Evidence Room. Because apparently someone tried to disprove the Holocaust. Someone tried to wipe away the blood and stains and say it was false, it was fake news, it was made up.

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There’s a whole exhibit proving otherwise. A whole room full of evidence to the contrary, that there was a reason the war desperately needed to be won.

The whole room was white. The ceiling, the walls, the plastered photographs and blueprints. Blueprints for concentration camps, factories of death. Auschwitz was only one of many camps meant to kill of Jews and everyone Nazis deemed unworthy. Even though that was textbook in my mind, even though I had read autobiographies and heard all about it, I had to see it to make it sink in.

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I felt the trains and little houses before I realized they were 3D plans for the bunkhouses and gas chambers.

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There was a model of a door, one side completely sealed off with a tiny glass window to peek out of, the other side with the lock. The sign said it was the door of an old gas chamber, a guard would be waiting on the outside til it was done.

Imagine being on the other side of the door. Trying to beat on the window. Being one of many. Turning into a statistic.

There were places to stay, places to work, places to step into and never come back. There was never a place you could be free.

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They said the reasons for the concentration camps was to make Germany superior. Anyone who didn’t fit that was shipped off.

11 million. 11 million people were killed. 11 million to make one nation superior.

There were moms, dads, brothers, sisters, kids.  Gone. Millions more gone were the soldiers fighting to make sure their country would never have to go through that. Maybe when we read 11 million lives, we don’t get that they were people. We don’t get that they had ordinary lives, jobs, maybe someone was on the brink of inventing something new, maybe someone just found out they were gonna have a family, maybe, just maybe they lived.

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I don’t even know if I’m doing this justice. I don’t know if I even understand how well planned they made this mass murder. But maybe it’s important that I -that we do. Cause knowledge not shared remains unknown. And if this knowledge remains unknown, we’re in trouble.

This is why the war was fought. This is why so many people gave their lives to fight. Because everybody has the right to live, no matter who they are. Nobody should be able to take millions of lives simply because they’re not his ideal.

We don’t trade lives.

Today, we celebrate the defeat of those who did.

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The Day After 9/11

On this day 17 years ago, America- and the world- was still getting over the shock of what happened just one day ago.

Just one day ago, people were breathing. They went to work, they were going places. And now, just like that, they were gone.

The majority of the people reading this are kids. We don’t know what it was like, we can’t remember how terrible it was. All we have are stories.

Like how people raced home to be with their families, even if it wasn’t their country that was being hit. Like how one little boy would watch the aftermath, live, and for weeks stare out of the window, waiting for planes to come. Like how despite all the rubble there was a cross standing, made from wreckage.

For many of us, it’s just another day.

Maybe take a moment to remember the brave firefighters and first responders that came in when people were dying and fought when all was lost. Maybe remember that people fought for the safety and freedom we enjoy now. Maybe realize that everywhere, from everything that’s happened, people are hurting. Maybe know that God was there, and in ways we can’t understand, is here for us.

Then today won’t just be the day after 9/11.

P.S. I know this video was clearly geared for little kids, but take a look anyway?