The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Okay, I can't lie. Keep the tissues handy for this one. The prologue introduces us to our narrator, Death. Right off the bat, we know that this isn't going to be a really happy book. Liesel loses her brother to Death in the first chapter, and her mother leaves her in the care of foster parents. However bleak it begins, and however grave the subject matter (Nazi Germany), this is not a tale of sorrow. Rather it is a tale of how powerful words can be.

The book thief's first theft turns out to be "The Grave Digger's Handbook", and the first book she ever reads. She stays up every night with her new Papa, learning her alphabet and slowly beginning to understand the words. After that she steals from a Nazi book burning. As a member of the Hitler Youth, this is both daring and dangerous. Her thievery doesn't stop with just books. With her best friend Rudy they steal apples, potatoes, even a ham once, to sooth their hungry bellies.

Her heart is stretched once more to include a wayward Jew, Max, who is hidden in their basement for months. In addition to becoming her friend, he gives her the gift of handwritten stories. When the time comes for Max to move on, she is torn between his safety, and that of her foster family's. Written from a different perspective than the usual Holocaust novels, this book is also full of beautiful prose. Zusak weaves words expertly.

This book will touch your heart. Somehow it makes you almost sympathize with the Germans who could see the harm their country was doing, but were powerless to stop it. Even the Germans who followed the rules became prisoners, in their own way. Liesel's story, as narrated by Death, tells us the tale of a young girl who finds her place among all the despair around her. She finds a way to grow and live.
"Usually it was like spillage--cold and heavy, slippery and grey--but once in a while some stars had the nerve to rise and float, if only for a few minutes. On those nights, she would stay a little longer and wait....till the stars were dragged down again, into the waters of the German sky," (Zusak pg. 45, 2005).

*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
Maus by Art Speigleman
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
Number the Stars by Lois Lowery
Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli

Zusak, Markus. (2005). The Book Thief. Alfred A. Knopf: New York.

No comments:

Post a Comment