Following Once and Then, this finale to Gleitzman’s trilogy brings the stories of Felix and Zelda, orphaned children in Nazi-occupied Poland, to a conclusion both frightening and tender. Though this story can be read on its own, similarities in narrative voice connect the tales (as in the earlier volumes, the titular word begins each chapter). Readers of the previous books will quickly recognize a new setting—21st-century Australia—and narrator: Felix’s 10-year-old granddaughter, named Zelda after his brave, murdered friend. Gleitzman subtly explores Felix’s terrible survivor’s guilt and its effect on following generations, against the backdrop of Australia’s heat wave and devastating 2009 bushfires. Felix’s impassioned confrontation with local bullies (“People die because of stupid, vicious talk like that”) gives Zelda a rare glimpse into the past of a grandfather she admires, while emphasizing how undeserving she feels of her name, believing she lacks her namesake’s bravery. Felix’s altruism in the face of calamity frees Zelda to embrace the present, while her courage helps him save a life and put to rest his oldest love. A poignant close to an affecting and heartrending history. Ages 10–up. (May)
Reviewed on: 04/23/2012 Release date: 06/05/2012 Genre: Children's
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