Mor­ris Gleitzman

  • Review
By – September 9, 2011

When Felix dis­cov­ers a whole car­rot in his bowl of soup, he is con­vinced it is a sign that his par­ents, Jew­ish book­sellers, are com­ing for him. It is 1942, and for three years and eight months Felix has lived a secret life in the Catholic orphan­age where they hoped he would be safe. But when Moth­er Min­ka sad­ly tells Felix that the car­rot is not a sign from his par­ents and they are not com­ing for him, he does not believe her. He decides he has to warn them that Nazis are burn­ing Jew­ish books. Ear­ly the next morn­ing, he slips out through the main gate and begins to fol­low the riv­er home. At first, Felix makes excus­es for the hor­rors he sees along the way. He tells him­self, for exam­ple, that the sol­dier who fired at him didn’t mean t o and that maybe the half-naked peo­ple crammed into trucks are just going for a swim. Even­tu­al­ly, he under­stands it is not just Jew­ish books the Nazis hate — it is Jews. On his har­row­ing jour­ney, Felix res­cues Zel­da, an orphaned six-year- old, and the two of them, along with oth­er chil­dren, are shel­tered briefly by a Jew­ish den­tist who treats high-rank­ing Nazis. Inevitably, though, they all are locked into a box­car and know they are on their way to a death camp. When a hole is acci­den­tal­ly punched through some rot­ted boards, they real­ize they have a chance to escape. Mirac­u­lous­ly, Felix and Zel­da sur­vive their jump from the mov­ing train. Lying in a field some­where in Poland, Felix doesn’t know what the rest of his sto­ry will be — It could end in a few min­utes, or tomor­row, or next year…,” but how­ev­er it turns out, he believes he has been lucky — more than once. For ages 12 and up.

Susan Kan­tor was a senior writer/​editor for Girl Scouts of the USA, a chil­dren’s book edi­tor, and a past judge for the Nation­al Jew­ish Book Awards in the illus­trat­ed children’s book cat­e­go­ry. She is a writer and a docent at the Rubin Muse­um in New York City, where she leads pub­lic and pri­vate tours.

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