A few weeks ago, I was at the Youth Libraries Group conference in Lancaster. It was a great conference, probably the best YLG conference I’ve been at, and one of the highlights was meeting Morris Gleitzman and hearing him speak.
I’ve always liked his books, especially Two Weeks with the Queen, which I often use with school groups in my Ways Into Reading sessions. I like it so much that I bought another copy of it at the conference so that I could get it signed. I’ve never really lost my excitement at meeting authors even after all these years as a librarian. There’s just something so special about talking to the people who’ve created the books I love.
However, Morris was at our conference at least partly to promote his forthcoming book, Then. It’s the sequel to Once which tells the story of Felix and Zelda, two children in 1940s Poland. Once is a good book (I feel I should maybe give that capitals) and it’s a deceptively simple one. The language is simple and the plot is simple but there’s nothing simple about the book. It deals with horrific situations and dreadful choices and real-life history. I think the power of the book lies in its simplicity. But Then is even more powerful. It’s published in the UK in January but I have a proof copy. I have no intention of spoiling the story for you but I do want to encourage you to read it. I also want to warn you that some of the scenes will haunt you for a long time. The words might be easy but the book is a very difficult read. But read it – and remember that some people lived it.