The Book Thief * Written by Markus Zusak
Who better than Death to narrate a story of World War II? He knows all the intimate details better than anyone. In The Book Thief, Death unburdens upon the reader a story that haunts even him, that of the girl Liesel Meminger of Molching, Germany. Liesel, after watching her younger brother die on a train ride, is inexplicably abandoned by her mother. She becomes the foster daughter of Hans and Rosa Hubermann. Hans is a supremely good and patient man, while Rosa has a rough exterior and a filthy tongue that hide a heart of gold. In the impoverished and absurd circumstances of Nazi Germany during the war, Liesel and her best friend Rudy negotiate the trials and adventures of early adolescence and develop a taste for thievery; particularly, in Liesel’s case, book thievery. In due time, in their own dangerous and brave act of thievery, Liesel’s foster parents “steal” something of great worth from the very Fürher himself. The world of the book is that of a very real and dangerous circumstance in which patriotism and duty to one’s country seem far distant from morality, and often there are no good choices to make. So many innocent, decent people get caught in horrific realities because of rhetoric and definitions. The power of words for both good and evil is a central theme of the book.
Death, in addition to telling the story with his expectedly dark and ironic humor, tired voice, and outsider perspective, also reveals to the reader that he has a heart. This is one of those rare and precious books that, while describing dire and heartbreaking circumstances, are also filled with joy, life, humor, and humanity. Death voices his perplexity over the paradox that so much good and so much evil can come from humanity, and, by the end of the book, I was left pondering upon the same quandary. I highly recommend this book to any reader, probably 9th grade to adult.
Release Date: March 2006