Once there was a young Jewish boy named Felix living in Nazi occupied Poland. He was naïve as to why his parents left him at a Catholic orphanage. Felix got tired of waiting for them to come back for him so he chose to leave the safety of the nuns and go back home. This poignant story by Morris Gleitzman shows the Holocaust through the innocent eyes of a child. The 10-year-old cannot understand the things he witnesses. Why are people found shot outside a farmhouse? Why are there strangers living in his house? The reader follows his conjectures and rationalizations until he very slowly comes to the realization that the Jews are being eliminated and his parents are gone.
Then he befriends a 6-year-old girl named Zelda. They escape a train bound for a concentration camp and spend every moment trying to hide from the Nazis. Felix makes up stories to distract Zelda from hunger and fear. The author Richmal Crompton is his hero, and he prays to her when he is scared. The children are taken in by a kind woman. She bleaches their hair and gets them fake documentation so they can hide in plain sight, but they all live in constant fear of discovery. Felix witnesses unspeakable cruelty and hatred and although he feels anger, makes a conscious choice not to become like the Nazis.
These novels are historical fiction at its best. Thoroughly researched and simply presented with the authentic voice of a child. It is one thing to learn the facts of the Holocaust and an entirely different matter to witness them from a child’s perspective.