The Book Thief

By Markus Zusak

Place: Publisher & Year: New York: Alfred A Knopf, c2005, 2006

Genre: Historical fiction

ISBN: 9780375831003

Audience: Adult, young adult -“Somebody’s favorite book”

Number of pages: 552

Setting: Molching, Germany (outside of Munich)

Time period: 1939- 1945

Plot summary: In January 1939, nine year old, Liesel Meminger, steals her first book while travelling by train to meet her foster parents.  Along the journey, Liesel’s younger brother dies after an intense coughing fit.  After he is buried, Liesel finds The Gravedigger’s Handbook where it had been dropped in the snow and keeps it.  The fact that she can’t read it (or anything else) does not deter her from taking it.  As Liesel grows older in Nazi Germany, she finds other occasions to pilfer a variety of items.  Her favorite things to steal, however, are books.  As she learns to read, she shares stories with others in her community (including the Jewish man hiding in her basement) and eventually writes her own story.

Illustrations: A few black and white drawings are incorporated into a story called The Standover Man (p. 224-236).  Others are found in a later story called The Word Shaker (p. 445-450); and two appear independent of a story (p. 279-280).  These are all drawn by the character, Max.

Appeal factors:

Pacing: Moderately paced

Characterization: The story is told in third person by Death.  The story is centered upon Liesel, but other important characters include Hans and Rosa Hubermann – Liesel’s foster parents, Rudy – Liesel’s best friend, and Max – the man in the basement.

Frame: The darkness of a story told by Death set in Nazi Germany is balanced by the beauty of love and friendship between the characters.

Story line: A moving story which focuses upon the beautiful moments scattered throughout a time of ugliness.

Subject headings:

From Pima County Public Library:

Death — Fiction.

Jews — Germany — History — 1933-1945 — Fiction.

Storytelling — Fiction.

World War, 1939-1945 — Jews — Rescue — Fiction.

Books and reading — Fiction.

Germany — History — 1933-1945 — Fiction.

Similar works:

Recommendations from the Mengle Memorial Library in Brockway, PA

Personal notes: I loved this book!  Death makes an awesome narrator for this tale.  He hints at things to come without giving too much away, so readers are prepared for certain events when they unfold.

Other (diversity, themes, websites): Diversity – Germans, Jewish Germans

Random House’s website for Markus Zusak

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