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) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Gr 5-9-Jumping ahead 70 years from where Once (2010) and Then (2011, both Holt) left off, this sequel finds Felix, a Holocaust survivor, about to mark his 80th birthday and caring for his adoring 11-year-old granddaughter while her parents are volunteering as doctors in Darfur. The fact that her parents called her Zelda is problematic to both the girl and her grandfather. Named after the 6-year-old girl who Felix-then only 10 himself-rescued from her home after her parents had been slain in 1942, the modern-day child is keenly aware that she is the namesake of a talented, inspirational, and brave individual whom she feels will always be the most important person in her grandfather's life. She feels hopelessly inferior to the departed Zelda, and feels especially lacking in courage since she began having run-ins with bullies at her new school. What his granddaughter does not fully understand is that Felix has his own deeply guarded and painful associations with the name, which is why he always refers to her as "Babushka," instead. So, while both Felix and his granddaughter are clearly thoughtful and capable human beings, they're also both psychologically hamstrung by the memories of the original Zelda. It'll take a regional disaster-a holocaust of a very different kind-for the pair to finally get over the past and begin appreciating the Now. While this book is perfectly understandable as a stand-alone title, it will be best appreciated by readers of the earlier volumes who are invested in the saga and who will find this title a clever and satisfying way of coming full circle.-Jeffrey Hastings, Highlander Way Middle School, Howell, MI (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.