Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

 (Photo taken from Wikipedia)

Title: The Book Thief
Author: Markus Zusak
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Language: English
ISBN - 10: 0375831002
ISBN - 13: 978-0375831003

The year is nearing its end, but I see that great books are still coming my way!  So definitely, you know where my review is headed.  :D  I know a lot of you has read this, and I'm probably one of the last to discover this  (it populated our bookstores only very recently), but if ever there are some who found this even later than I did, for their sakes, a short summary is in order:  Immediately before World War II, Liesel Meminger was adopted into a poor family in Molching, the Hubermanns.  Suffering from the loss of her brother from his death on the way to their new family, and from the separation from her real mother, she steals picks up a book lying on the snowy ground, The Gravediggers Handbook, her first of several books that she takes.  Living with her new family, she learns to cope with her loss through reading books with her new Papa, and with an unexpected Jew come to hide in their house.  The story is told by Death, an unusual narrator, focusing on the life and death of people around Liesel and herself, doing their best to live through a difficult time in history.  This is obviously a serious read, even for the older readers. 

One of the things I loved about this book:  It teaches history in the most interesting way possible.  Unlike The Diary of Anne Frank, this book, in my opinion, has more spunk and edge, and with a unique narrator, more wisdom, perhaps.  The decision to tell the story through Death gave the author more room to express mature observations about the world, about living and dying, without it sounding too phony or unrealistic if coming from a younger point of view.

The characters are very likable, and each of us can relate to them - their feelings, thoughts, fears, everything.  I especially loved Rosa Hubermann, even though she appeared to be the most severe character and would at times seem to be the villain, I loved her big heart and her bigger patience for Liesel (no spoilers, but yes, towards the end I guess you'll understand what I'm saying).  Yes, she seems hard, but you know, like teddy bears, grizzly and big on the outside, soft and cuddly on the inside.  The innocent friendship/love story between Liesel and Rudy Steiner is cute, endearing, and very touching.  And of course, the addition of the Jew Max Vandenberg provided perspective and insight into the Jewish suffering of that time, and also demonstrated the strength of Papa Hans Hubermann's (The Promise Keeper) character.

The story is written clear enough that younger readers can understand, but I guess if you take this story at face value it won't be so easy and in some parts, if not prepared, you might get too bored or overwhelmed.  But knowing beforehand that this is a deep story not just about history or about Liesel, but of living and dying, will prepare you for a smooth but emotional ride into the characters' lives. 

I definitely recommend this read to anyone, not just young readers, as all of us can learn a lot from this book.  Obviously not just about World War II but about ourselves.  I heard that this is turned into a movie but for me, I think reading this book will make you understand the story more than watching it, as I don't think it would be as easy to express those feelings on film, to delve into the characters' thoughts, especially Liesel's.  Although movies visually take us through the whole story, can it ensure the same, if not more, emotional connection with the story?  And let's face it:  movies change stories in books.  If you would like to watch the film, go ahead, but I'm betting that reading it and watching it are two very different experiences, I'm sure for me it would make a huge difference.  But I am also hoping that witnessing it all happen in front of me will prove pleasant and insightful.


  1. Hi Nina! I'm your newest follower :)

    Can you believe I've yet to read this book? I hear the most incredible things about it, but I just keep putting it off! I loved your review though, and I'm definitely going to have to buy it after all!

  2. Like Melissa, I'm one of those rare individuals who have yet to read this book :o) You definitely made me feel like I'm missing out by not reading it! I will have to put it on my TBR list. Great review!

  3. You are definitely missing out by not reading this! Better read it soon! Thanks, glad you liked my review :D

  4. I have not read this book yet. I have heard great things about it though. Thanks for the review, Nina!

  5. I just bought this book! I loved this review; I'm really excited to read it now! I will definitely try not to take the book at face value.


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