Mor­ris Gleitzman
  • Review
By – August 7, 2012

Now com­pletes the bril­liant tril­o­gy Once, Then, Now. The nar­ra­tor in the third book is, as in the oth­er two, a pre-teen child, aware of the world around her, yet with­out an adult’s under­stand­ing of the rea­sons for what she observes. The voice is so per­fect the read­er mar­vels that author Gleitz­man pulls off this tour de force. As in Once and Then, every chapter’s first word and the novel’s last is the title of the book. But Now dif­fers from the first two nov­els; it swaps nar­ra­tor, set­ting, and dan­ger. The nar­ra­tor is Zel­da, grand­daugh­ter of Felix, con­scious­ly named for his Pol­ish wartime side­kick. The set­ting is Aus­tralia. The dan­ger is no longer the Nazis, but a rag­ing brush fire com­pli­cat­ed by school bul­lies and Zelda’s class­mate who is close to death. The sto­ry pro­vides clo­sure for read­ers of the series. They learn that Felix sur­vives, escapes to Aus­tralia, becomes a famous, beloved sur­geon and meets oth­er Holo­caust sur­vivors. Aging, retired Felix is a pale fig­ure com­pared to his past adven­tures. He ris­es to his old self when he and Zel­da, who comes to stay with him while her par­ents are on a med­ical mis­sion to Africa, are threat­ened by the out-of-con­trol fire. The two of them per­form hero­ic surgery under prim­i­tive con­di­tions, rac­ing the rag­ing flames. Zelda’s pres­ence revives Holo­caust mem­o­ries for Felix, rein­tro­duces the birth­day lock­et, reminds read­ers of Felix’s sad back-sto­ry, and explains the fac­tors shap­ing Felix as a person. 

This nov­el shares the series’ joy in and pow­er of sto­ry­telling, and we see a great­ly sur­prised Zel­da who does not know what the read­er knows. With charm and imag­i­na­tion, with the strong clar­i­ty of a youth­ful voice, Now rein­forces the truth that life goes on with the bad past stay­ing in the past, while the good past guides one for­ward. For its excel­lent writ­ing and con­tent, Now is high­ly rec­om­mend­ed for read­ers age 10 and up.

Addi­tion­al Titles in the Series

Ellen G. Cole, a retired librar­i­an of the Levine Library of Tem­ple Isa­iah in Los Ange­les, is a past judge of the Syd­ney Tay­lor Book Awards and a past chair­per­son of that com­mit­tee. She is a co-author of the AJL guide, Excel­lence in Jew­ish Children’s Lit­er­a­ture. Ellen is the recip­i­ent of two major awards for con­tri­bu­tion to Juda­ic Librar­i­an­ship, the Fan­ny Gold­stein Mer­it Award from the Asso­ci­a­tion of Jew­ish Libraries and the Dorothy Schroed­er Award from the Asso­ci­a­tion of Jew­ish Libraries of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia. She is on the board of AJLSC.

Discussion Questions