Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (So good I could steal it, but I won't)

You ever sit back and wonder how the holocaust could have happened? Have you ever wondered how Germans could sit by and let Hitler do what he did? The Book Thief shows us the side of the story we don’t often hear. Liesel Meminger, a young German girl, finds herself in foster care at the beginning of World War II. Liesel is drawn to books after she allows herself to steal the “Gravedigger’s Handbook.” She is taught to read in the basement of her foster home by her “papa” Hans Huberman and she can’t get enough of books from then on out. Liesel’s life would be quite ordinary had she not been in Germany during World War II, but the fact is that she found herself smack dab in the middle of all of it and continued to make the most out of it as children often do. Liesle has friends, does crazy things, swears at her friends (especially her best friend Rudy), and steals what she can’t buy. Liesel is a kid growing up in the face of a bleak world and she is not spared from the darkness of those days in Europe. The story is told from the perspective of Death (yes, Death is the actual narrator of the story). So if you expect a happy ending, you probably shouldn’t read a book that is being told to you by Death itself.

Despite its dark beginnings, this book gives you many opportunities to smile. What an amazing frickin’ book. The story makes you aware of the humanness of war, the darkness of war, the unfairness of it all, and the incredible strength of people that is only seen during times of war. You are reminded that there are people with kids, spouses, grandparents, friends, co-workers, siblings, and other relations that are on both sides of the war. You are reminded that many people affected by war are really just trying to live their lives and yet are considered the enemy by where they live. I loved these characters. I loved the German swearwords, not for the swearing but for the realness that it brought the characters. Rudy and Liesel’s adventures together made me laugh and reminded me of my days as a kid (minus the stealing of course). I was reminded that sometimes terrible things happen because sometimes they just do, just like good things. Sometimes in the worst of moments people are just trying to help everyone survive. Liesle and her family reminded me that we are all capable of extremes, not because we are evil or good, but because we are human. This is a book everyone should read at some point in their lives. It’s not action packed, it’s dark, but it’s real. This book definitely deserves the Grand Poobah.


  1. This is one of my all-time favorites too! I was so impressed how Markus Zusak used the theme of the power of words and reading - it's obviously one that he has a good grasp of, as this was one of the most powerful YA books I've ever encountered. I've heard that I am the Messenger (also by Zusak) is excellent as well, but I've not yet read it. It's difficult to imagine it being anywhere as good as this one.

  2. There were so many great themes and it was after my post that I realized that I did not talk about that one and that was one of my favorites. As a middle school teacher I always think about the "stick and stones may break my bones..." and I think that whoever came up with that didn't work with kids. I could think of many books that have made me face things that I did not want to face or change my mind about things I was determined not to change. I guess I wouldn't be much of a teacher if I didn't respect the power of words. Thanks for taking the time to stop by. I am definitely going to check out I Am the Messenger.

  3. BTW If you get a chance, check out it's my wife's YA blog and others have said her reviews are fantastic. (and I'm not just saying that because I'm married to her). She covers a lot more books than me, I review to give the guy perspective. Keep it balanced.