Synopses & Reviews
A 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.
"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.)
"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)
"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)
"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
"[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
"Exquisitely written and memorably populated....A tour de force to be not just read but inhabited." The Horn Book (Starred 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
"[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
"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
"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
"One of the most highly anticipated young-adult books in years." The Wall Street Journal
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.
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.