Reading level: Ages 12 and up
Paperback: 576 pages
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
By Yari Nieves-Rivera, Courier Book Editor
Imagine being separated from the only life youíve known. Your brother, who was to accompany you, dies on the trip to your new lives, and leaves you alone to deal with the consequences. Imagine your mother leaving you because sheís afraid for your well being, with a couple youíve never even heard of. Now, imagine that this was all happening in Nazi Germany.
The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak follows young Liesel, a girl whoís parents were communists; something you didnít want to reveal in the days of Nazi Germany. At the age of ten, sheís taken to Molching, Germany, to stay with a foster family for the remainder of the war. There she meets unlikely friends. A boy whoís the perfect example of the Aryan race and wants to be like Jessie Owens, an African-American man who won the Olympics in running. She also makes an unlikely friend through her fatherís need to help people, a boxer who would certainly be dead if found.
Forlorn little Liesel finds comfort in one thing: books. Any book. It all began on the day of her brotherís burial. She found a book in the snow as she walked away from his grave, and took it with her so that she would always remember her brother. Unfortunately, Liesel had never learned how to read or write. When her new papa finds the book under her mattress, he decides to teach Liesel how to read and write. Lieselís thirst for words is something that she canít control, it seems. She gets nicknamed the Book Thief by her friend, Rudy, for a reason. She just steals as many books as she can, whenever she can. Her knowledge grows, and so does her thirst. Throughout the four years she spends with her loving foster family, books seem to be the only things that ease the pain that she feels inside.
With elegant writing, Death tells her story second-hand, and relays how many times he saw Liesel before the end of the book. He explains how he came to know the tale of the Book Thief, and how much it really matters to him to read it. The dark character is touched by LIesel so much, and carries it with him everywhere.
An award winning book, this historical novel touches the individual lives of rather insignificant people in World War II. The citizens of Nazi Germany were just as much victims of the crimes of war as the other countries and races harmed by the Nazis. In the beginning of the novel, Hitler is idolized by young Liesel, but she grows to hate him as she sees the true horrors of his beliefs and the crimes he has committed against humanity. The Book Thief gives a different view of World War II, from the inside of evil, through the eyes of a young German girl.
This breathtaking novel is written with such imagery that you can see everything that happens in the book, as if it were right in front of you. From Max, the boxing Jewish man in Lieselís basement, to Hans Hubberman, her papa, you can feel every emotion they feel. You can see what they see. It hardly ever occurs that a novel like this succeeds at its goal, but amazing storytelling deems it to me as one of the best books I have ever read.
If you enjoy historical novels, this novel is definitely one I recommend. Not only does it stay in your memory, but in your heart as well. The story of The Book Thief is absolutely gorgeous, and you will not be able to put it down. Death is said to be haunted by humans, but beauty of this tale will follow me for the rest of my life.