Summary and book reviews of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The Book Thief

By Markus Zusak

The Book Thief
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  • Hardcover: Mar 2006,
    560 pages.
    Paperback: Sep 2007,
    576 pages.

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About this Book

Book Summary

Winner of the 2007 BookBrowse Ruby Award.

It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .

Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist – books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau. This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.

DEATH AND CHOCOLATE

First the colors.
Then the humans.
That's usually how I see things.
Or at least, how I try.

***HERE IS A SMALL FACT ***
You are going to die.


I am in all truthfulness attempting to be cheerful about this whole topic, though most people find themselves hindered in believing me, no matter my protestations. Please, trust me. I most definitely can be cheerful. I can be amiable. Agreeable. Affable. And that's only the A's. Just don't ask me to be nice. Nice has nothing to do with me.


***Reaction to the ***
AFOREMENTIONED FACT
Does this worry you?
I urge you--don't be afraid.
I'm nothing if not fair.


--Of course, an introduction.

A beginning.

Where are my manners?

I could introduce myself properly, but it's not really necessary. You will know me well enough and soon enough, depending on a diverse range of variables. It suffices to say that at some point in time, I will be standing over you, as genially as ...

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About this Book

Liesel Meminger is only nine years old when she is taken to live with the Hubermanns, a foster family, on Himmel Street in Molching, Germany, in the late 1930s. She arrives with few possessions, but among them is The Grave Digger's Handbook, a book that she stole from her brother's burial place. During the years that Liesel lives with the Hubermanns, Hitler becomes more powerful, life on Himmel Street becomes more fearful, and Liesel becomes a fullfledged book thief. She rescues books from Nazi book-burnings and steals from the library of the mayor. Liesel is illiterate when she steals her first book, but Hans Hubermann uses her prized books to teach her to read. This is a story of courage, friendship,...
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    BookBrowse Awards
    2007

Reviews

BookBrowse

The Book Thief is an extraordinary, heartbreaking book. Like The Curious Incident of the Dog in The Night-Time, which was initially targeted at young adults in Britain but to adults in the USA, The Book Thief is one of those rare books that really does speak to both young and old alike.

The excerpt that you can read at BookBrowse doesn't do this exceptionally readable, highly memorable book justice. It's not so much that it's not representative of the book, but more that the style of writing grows on one to the point that the prose ends up reading almost like poetry.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

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Media Reviews
New York Times - Janet Maslin

The Book Thief will be appreciated for Mr. Zusak's audacity, also on display in his earlier I Am the Messenger. It will be widely read and admired because it tells a story in which books become treasures.

USA Today - Carol Memmott

The Book Thief is unsettling and unsentimental, yet ultimately poetic. Its grimness and tragedy run through the reader's mind like a black-and-white movie, bereft of the colors of life. Zusak may not have lived under Nazi domination, but The Book Thief deserves a place on the same shelf with The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank and Elie Wiesel's Night. It seems poised to become a classic.

San Francisco Chronicle - Reyhan Harmanci

Writing fiction about the Holocaust is a risky endeavor. Most children learn about it in history class, or through nonfiction narratives like Eli Wiesel's Night. Zusak has done a useful thing by hanging the story on the experience of a German civilian, not a camp survivor, and humanizing the choices that ordinary people had to make in the face of the F├╝hrer.

Washington Post - Elizabeth Chang

[A]n absorbing and searing narrative.

Booklist - Hazel Rochman

More than the overt message about the power of words, it's Liesl's confrontation with horrifying cruelty and her discovery of kindness in unexpected places that tell the heartbreaking truth.

Kirkus Reviews

The writing is elegant, philosophical and moving. Even at its length, it's a work to read slowly and savor. Beautiful and important.

The Horn Book

Starred. Exquisitely written and memorably populated... A tour de force to be not just read but inhabited.

Publisher's Weekly

Starred book. This hefty volume is an achievement - a challenging book in both length and subject.

The Daily Telegraph - Lisa Hilton

The suggestion that 40 million people died because of the power of words might seem trite until one recalls the mendacious blabberings of the leaders of a war we are still fighting. The Book Thief depends too much on unnecessary devices to be a great novel, but it is certainly extraordinary, resonant and relevant, beautiful and angry.

The Independent - Marianne Brace

This is a moving work which will make many eyes brim. Zusak shows us how small defiances and unexpectedly courageous acts remind us of our humanity. It isn't only Death who is touched. Liesel steals our hearts too.

The Age (Australia) - Peter Pierce

A prize-winning children's author, Zusak has made a daring debut as an author of adult fiction .... The Book Thief is a triumph of control, and for the most part of tact, although Death is at liberty to breach any decorum. Its oblique angle on the German homefront never exalts the courage of the young, but quietly tells of how days and months are managed.

Reader Reviews
Cloggie Downunder

very moving
The Book Thief is the fifth novel by Australian author, Markus Zusak. The setting is Nazi Germany just before the start of World War Two, through to 1943, and the story is narrated by Death. Death was decidedly overworked during the war, but he ...   Read More

Dorothy T.

Very different style--keep an open mind
I cannot remember where I first heard about this book, but when I checked it out at the bookstore, I could not get past the first couple of pages. When I saw the trailer for the upcoming movie, which intrigued me, I decided to give it another chance...   Read More

historical reader

heartwarming
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is a chilling story about a little girl that lost her brother and was sent to live with foster parents. She tells her life story through the Holocaust and her best friends that she manages to make during the holocaust. ...   Read More

Penny

Just didn't like it
I tried, many many times, to read this book. I heard good reviews. Frankly it bored me. The obvious plight of an orphan in the Holocaust - well of COURSE you are going to feel sorry for her. But in my opinion, there was no lyricism to this story....   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Markus Zusak is the author of Fighting Ruben Wolfe, Getting The Girl, I Am The Messenger and The Book Thief.  He received the Children's Book Council of Australia's Book of the Year Award for I Am the Messenger. He lives in Sydney, where he "writes, occasionally works a real job, and plays on a soccer team that never wins". 

When asked about The Book Thief, he explains, "I wanted to write something very different than what I'd done before.  The idea of a book stealer was in my head when I was writing I Am The Messenger, but it wasn't ...

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