The Book Thief
Author: Markus Zusak
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
The Book Thief is absolutely brilliant and it captured me with the first chapter title Death and Chocolate. How could you not fall in love with a title like that?
Death narrates this elegantly written story about an extremely poor girl named Liesel Meminger who lives in Germany in World War II. Lisle has caught the attention of Death when he came to claim her little brother’s soul. He saw her and was captivated as she stole her first book, The Grave Digger’s Handbook.
The book is so unusual and so exquisite. Each chapter, each page is so brilliantly written that I found myself hanging on every word, going back over to read a sentence, a paragraph, a chapter again and again simply because those sections of the book were so gorgeous, simple and powerful.
How often do you find a book like that? I read a lot, more than most I’d say and I can remember each of the books that captivated me like this one did. I found myself as captivated by the book as Death was with Liesel Meminger.
The Book Thief is an astounding and powerful tale. Liesel, who at the beginning of the tale loses her baby brother, her mother and begins her life as a book thief is sent to live near Munich with a foster family, the Hubermans. Frau Huberman loves to scream and curse but it hides a loving and tender heart. Hans Humberman is a wonderful stepfather who sits in Liesel’s room every night to make her feel safe when she wakes screaming from nightmares. We find out just what a good man Hans Huberman is as the Death spins out his tale.
Liesel slowly makes a life for herself and friends like Rudy Steiner, a German boy who loves Jesse Owens and wants to emulate him. He defies Hitler Youth and forges his own path. Liesel joins Rudy in his thievery – they steal for food and for the excitement of it. For Liesel, there is more than food and excitement, there are books. There are also secrets – like the dangerous secret of hiding a Jew in their basement.
Death is interesting. He’s not the usual portrayal of a Grim Reaper with a scythe, in fact he’s amused at the idea. Death is caring. Death is tender. Death is witty. Death is eloquent. He makes a hell of a narrator. The Book Thief has already won great acclaim and it certainly deserves it.
Book Description from the publisher:
It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .
Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.
This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.
About the Author
Markus Zusak is the author of I Am the Messenger, winner of the Children's Book Council Book of the Year in Australia, Fighting Ruben Wolfe, an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, and Getting the Girl. The author lives in Sydney, Australia.