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The Book Thief

by

The Book Thief Cover

 

Staff Pick

"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..." Take your time reading this beautifully written book with an innovative approach to storytelling. Narrated by Death and set in World War II Germany, the story revolves around young Liesel Meminger and her foster family as the war creeps up around them. Simply put, this is a masterpiece.
Recommended by Sarah H., Powells.com

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

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.

Review:

"This hefty volume is an achievement — a challenging book in both length and subject, and best suited to sophisticated older readers. The narrator is Death himself, a companionable if sarcastic fellow, who travels the globe 'handing souls to the conveyor belt of eternity.' Death keeps plenty busy during the course of this WWII tale, even though Zusak (I Am the Messenger) works in miniature, focusing on the lives of ordinary Germans in a small town outside Munich. Liesel Meminger, the book thief, is nine when she pockets The Gravedigger's Handbook, found in a snowy cemetery after her little brother's funeral. Liesel's father — a 'Kommunist' — is already missing when her mother hands her into the care of the Hubermanns. Rosa Hubermann has a sharp tongue, but Hans has eyes 'made of kindness.' He helps Liesel overcome her nightmares by teaching her to read late at night. Hans is haunted himself, by the Jewish soldier who saved his life during WWI. His promise to repay that debt comes due when the man's son, Max, shows up on his doorstep. This 'small story,' as Death calls it, threads together gem-like scenes of the fates of families in this tight community, and is punctuated by Max's affecting, primitive artwork rendered on painted-over pages from Mein Kampf. Death also directly addresses readers in frequent asides; Zusak's playfulness with language leavens the horror and makes the theme even more resonant — words can save your life. As a storyteller, Death has a bad habit of forecasting ('I'm spoiling the ending,' he admits halfway through his tale). It's a measure of how successfully Zusak has humanized these characters that even though we know they are doomed, it's no less devastating when Death finally reaches them. Ages 12-up." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"The writing is elegant, philosophical and moving. Even at its length, it's a work to read slowly and savor. Beautiful and important." Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)

Review:

"Zusak not only creates a mesmerizing and original story but also writes with poetic syntax, causing readers to deliberate over phrases and lines, even as the action impels them forward....An extraordinary narrative." School Library Journal (Starred Review)

Review:

"The Book Thief will be appreciated for Mr. Zusak's audacity....It will be widely read and admired because it tells a story in which books become treasures. And because there's no arguing with a sentiment like that." Janet Maslin, The New York Times

Review:

"[A] lengthy, powerful story....There's too much commentary at the outset, and too much switching from past to present time, but...the astonishing characters, drawn without sentimentality, will grab readers." Booklist

Review:

"Exquisitely written and memorably populated....A tour de force to be not just read but inhabited." The Horn Book (Starred Review)

Review:

"Zusak's writing is at times marred by some postmodern tricks...but, overall, his style is lyrical and moving....It's unlikely young readers will forget what this atrocity looked like through the eyes of Death." San Francisco Chronicle

Review:

"[S]trange, poetically descriptive, and, at times, ruthlessly bleak....[Liesel's] story is remarkable in that it's one of many equally tragic ones — and because it takes a special talent to find its moments of beauty among the rubble." Philadelphia Inquirer

Review:

"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." USA Today

Review:

"Zusak doesn't sugarcoat anything, but he makes his ostensibly gloomy subject bearable the same way Kurt Vonnegut did in Slaughterhouse-Five: with grim, darkly consoling humor." Time Magazine

Review:

"One of the most highly anticipated young-adult books in years." The Wall Street Journal

Synopsis:

New York Times bestseller for seven years running that's soon to be a major motion picture, this Printz Honor book by the author of I Am the Messenger is an unforgettable tale about the ability of books to feed the soul.

Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking 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.

The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.

The Book Thief is a Common Core Exemplar Text. 

From the Hardcover edition.

Video

About the Author

Markus Zusak 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.

What Our Readers Are Saying

Add a comment for a chance to win!
Average customer rating based on 108 comments:

evalowen, November 30, 2013 (view all comments by evalowen)
Interesting tale set in 1930's in a small German town near Munich. Death is the voiceover of this tale, as death was responsible for taking so many lives, of course it really was the Nazis. I do find Zusak using unusual words as adjectives, and some odd combinations of words for sentences. He is Australian so it is not as thought the book was translated. Though meant for teenagers it certainly resonates with adults also.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(2 of 3 readers found this comment helpful)
LaurieLee, November 16, 2013 (view all comments by LaurieLee)
"The Book Thief" is a great book & an even better story that's heartbreaking without being depressing & full of hope yet told from Death's perspective. Narrated by Death, it's the story of a girl who can't read but steals a book & a man who can't help being kind even when he knows it'll hurt everyone he loves. Death is a natural fit as narrator for the story of ordinary people during the everyday horror of Nazi Germany but Death's reassuring & surprisingly charming voice makes this book memorable beyond the ordinary.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(3 of 4 readers found this comment helpful)
Lindsay Waite, August 18, 2013 (view all comments by Lindsay Waite)
I finished this book too quickly. I couldn't put it down. While yes, I read a lot of historical fiction as well as nonfiction about WW II, "The Book Thief" is a unique look at the horror of that war from the perspective of a young German girl, her foster family, Max, whom they sheltered as long as they could, and others in a small German town near Munich. And, of course, from the view of the narrator, Death. Uniquely told, this story draws the reader into the life of a clever frightened girl and her gradual awakening to the reality surrounding her that eventually intrudes directly in her life. Don't miss the chance to delve into Liesel's world, her love of language, and her attempts to make sense of the terrible times even as she finds moments of joy.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(4 of 8 readers found this comment helpful)
View all 108 comments

Product Details

ISBN:
9780375842207
Author:
Zusak, Markus
Publisher:
Knopf Books for Young Readers
Subject:
Children's 12-Up - Fiction - History
Subject:
Historical - Holocaust
Subject:
Historical - Military & Wars
Subject:
Jews
Subject:
Death
Subject:
Storytelling
Subject:
General Juvenile Fiction
Subject:
Children s-Historical Fiction-Military and War
Subject:
Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Magic
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Series:
The Half Life Trilogy
Series Volume:
1
Publication Date:
20130910
Binding:
Paperback
Grade Level:
from 7
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Y
Pages:
576
Dimensions:
8.25 x 5.5 in 1 lb
Age Level:
12-17

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Young Adult » Featured Titles
Young Adult » General

The Book Thief New Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$12.99 In Stock
Product details 576 pages Knopf Books for Young Readers - English 9780375842207 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

"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..." Take your time reading this beautifully written book with an innovative approach to storytelling. Narrated by Death and set in World War II Germany, the story revolves around young Liesel Meminger and her foster family as the war creeps up around them. Simply put, this is a masterpiece.

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "This hefty volume is an achievement — a challenging book in both length and subject, and best suited to sophisticated older readers. The narrator is Death himself, a companionable if sarcastic fellow, who travels the globe 'handing souls to the conveyor belt of eternity.' Death keeps plenty busy during the course of this WWII tale, even though Zusak (I Am the Messenger) works in miniature, focusing on the lives of ordinary Germans in a small town outside Munich. Liesel Meminger, the book thief, is nine when she pockets The Gravedigger's Handbook, found in a snowy cemetery after her little brother's funeral. Liesel's father — a 'Kommunist' — is already missing when her mother hands her into the care of the Hubermanns. Rosa Hubermann has a sharp tongue, but Hans has eyes 'made of kindness.' He helps Liesel overcome her nightmares by teaching her to read late at night. Hans is haunted himself, by the Jewish soldier who saved his life during WWI. His promise to repay that debt comes due when the man's son, Max, shows up on his doorstep. This 'small story,' as Death calls it, threads together gem-like scenes of the fates of families in this tight community, and is punctuated by Max's affecting, primitive artwork rendered on painted-over pages from Mein Kampf. Death also directly addresses readers in frequent asides; Zusak's playfulness with language leavens the horror and makes the theme even more resonant — words can save your life. As a storyteller, Death has a bad habit of forecasting ('I'm spoiling the ending,' he admits halfway through his tale). It's a measure of how successfully Zusak has humanized these characters that even though we know they are doomed, it's no less devastating when Death finally reaches them. Ages 12-up." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "The writing is elegant, philosophical and moving. Even at its length, it's a work to read slowly and savor. Beautiful and important."
"Review" by , "Zusak not only creates a mesmerizing and original story but also writes with poetic syntax, causing readers to deliberate over phrases and lines, even as the action impels them forward....An extraordinary narrative."
"Review" by , "The Book Thief will be appreciated for Mr. Zusak's audacity....It will be widely read and admired because it tells a story in which books become treasures. And because there's no arguing with a sentiment like that."
"Review" by , "[A] lengthy, powerful story....There's too much commentary at the outset, and too much switching from past to present time, but...the astonishing characters, drawn without sentimentality, will grab readers."
"Review" by , "Exquisitely written and memorably populated....A tour de force to be not just read but inhabited."
"Review" by , "Zusak's writing is at times marred by some postmodern tricks...but, overall, his style is lyrical and moving....It's unlikely young readers will forget what this atrocity looked like through the eyes of Death."
"Review" by , "[S]trange, poetically descriptive, and, at times, ruthlessly bleak....[Liesel's] story is remarkable in that it's one of many equally tragic ones — and because it takes a special talent to find its moments of beauty among the rubble."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "Zusak doesn't sugarcoat anything, but he makes his ostensibly gloomy subject bearable the same way Kurt Vonnegut did in Slaughterhouse-Five: with grim, darkly consoling humor."
"Review" by , "One of the most highly anticipated young-adult books in years."
"Synopsis" by , New York Times bestseller for seven years running that's soon to be a major motion picture, this Printz Honor book by the author of I Am the Messenger is an unforgettable tale about the ability of books to feed the soul.

Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking 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.

The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.

The Book Thief is a Common Core Exemplar Text. 

From the Hardcover edition.

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