Once  - Morris Gleitzman I came across this one through YA Sync’s free audio summer program. Generally, I’m not into war stories, particularly those written from a child’s perspective. I just don’t have a good track record with them. I’ve read [b:Milkweed|69392|Milkweed|Jerry Spinelli|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1363264990s/69392.jpg|2915313] and [b:The Boy in the Striped Pajamas|39999|The Boy in the Striped Pajamas|John Boyne|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1366228171s/39999.jpg|1148702], both of which are similar to Once. In both books, I wanted to slap the narrators for their naivety of their situations. Since this one was free and the audio was only 3 hours I decided to give it a try.

The story is told from Felix’s perspective, a young Jewish boy, who was left by his parents in a Catholic orphanage. His parents were booksellers, which explains Felix’s love of books and storytelling. Because Felix likes to tell stories he is not the most reliable narrator. Many times he makes up stories to explain away the horrors he encounters or to simply make himself feel better. While, I did sometimes want to slap Felix for his naivety I did give him a pass because of his bookish background. Actually, I think that is why Once’s narration worked for me better than the other two books did.

I ended up liking Felix quite a bit. I found myself sympathizing with him and wanting to protect him. Of course war is horrific, but reading it from the perspective of a child seems to be more heart wrenching. I thought the plot and perspective were well done and at no point did I feel emotionally manipulated.

Apart from Felix there are a few other characters important to the story, like Zelda and Barney. Zelda reminded me of Ygritte from “A Games of Thrones” series with her constant “Don’t you know anything?”. After a third time or so of listening to it I was ready to throttle her. Barney’s character was definitely interesting and I was surprised to find out that his character was based on a true story. This made the ending more poignant for me.

Overall, despite some minor complaints this one was enjoyable as a war time read could be. The book is marked for middle grade kids, but just be warned that there is death and a bit of violence in the story.