Newly named Australian Children’s Laureate for 2018/19, Morris Gleitzman is known for making tough issues accessible to young readers through his trademark humour. Maybe is no exception. It follows Felix, a Holocaust survivor, as he struggles to find a haven in the chaotic aftermath of 1946.
Aged 14 years, Felix is on the run in Poland with older friends. They are pursued by Zliv, a thug who believes Felix killed his brother. The friends soon reach their place of safety, only to face a hostile mob backed by corrupt officials. This is just the opening salvo in an action-packed journey which sees Felix depart from war-torn Europe to a peaceful life in Australia. Or so he hopes…
Along the way we witness the physical and emotional hardships that war brings. Felix has to leave everyone he knows when he boards the Lancaster bomber that will transport him to his new host country. Gleitzman handles the painful parting with his characteristic light touch. He also weaves in strong details, of Felix squeezing into the gun turret with perspex walls, then lurching down the runway with everything rattling: “Far below, the airbase looks like a breadboard with a few caraway seeds on it…”
Maybe is the sixth in what Gleitzman describes as a ‘family’ of novels which can be read alone or in any order. Whereas the earlier Once portrays the horror of Nazi Germany with huge poignancy, Maybe evokes a time of turbulence—and a more mixed palette of emotions. Felix has to deal with old threats and new challenges Down Under, as well as his own newly romantic feelings. As ever, Gleitzman ensures he muddles through with kindness and humanity. Good for Key Stages 2/3. A final book is planned. I commend the entire ‘family’ to your keeping.