Cover image for The book thief
Title:
The book thief
ISBN:
9780375842207
Edition:
1st Knopf trade pbk. ed.
Publication Information:
New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2007.
Physical Description:
552, 15 p. : ill. ; 21 cm.
General Note:
Includes reading group guide.
Reading Level:
730 L Lexile
Summary:
Trying to make sense of the horrors of World War II, Death relates the story of Liesel--a young German girl whose book-stealing and story-telling talents help sustain her family and the Jewish man they are hiding, as well as their neighbors.
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On Order

Summary

Summary

DON'T MISS BRIDGE OF CLAY , MARKUS ZUSAK'S FIRST NOVEL SINCE THE BOOK THIEF .

The extraordinary #1 New York Times bestseller that is now a major motion picture, Markus Zusak's unforgettable story is about the ability of books to feed the soul.

Nominated as one of America's best-loved novels by PBS's The Great American Read .

When Death has a story to tell, you listen.

It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.

Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who 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.

In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak, author of I Am the Messenger, has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time.

"The kind of book that can be life-changing." -- The New York Times

"Deserves a place on the same shelf with The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank." -- USA Today


Author Notes

Markus Zusak was born in Sydney, Australia on June 23, 1975. He began writing at the age of 16, and seven years later his first book, The Underdog, was published. He is best known for his young adult novels The Book Thief and I Am the Messenger, both of which are Michael L. Printz Honor books. The Book Thief was adapted into a movie. His next book, Bridge of Clay was published October 2018. It won 2019 Indie Book Awards for Debut Fiction and Book of the Year.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 6

Horn Book Review

(High School) Set in a small town in Nazi Germany, Zusak's sweeping, ultimately heartbreaking novel is told (appropriately, by Death itself) in gorgeous language that contrasts markedly with the stark events -- just as main character Liesel's rich life contrasts with the bleakness of her circumstances. Audiobook narrator Corduner confidingly draws listeners in before Liesel steals a single book; and each character is sharply delineated, from the deep-thinking, compassionate Death to Liesel's hectoring foster mother. Corduner effortlessly handles the book's distinctively expansive yet intimate nature in a tour de force performance. (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.


School Library Journal Review

Nazi Germany during World War II is the backdrop for this "small story" that explores the power of words to affect the human condition. Death is the narrator here, performed with detached perfection by Corduner, recounting the story of the young thief, Liesel, who discovers books have the ability to sustain her community amidst the horrors of war. This 2007 Michael L. Printz Honor Book is also a Common Core text exemplar for grades 9-10. Common Core Standard: RL.9-10.2. Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text. Content Standard: Massachusetts (Reading Standards for Literature 6-12) Grades 9-10: MA.8.A. Relate a work of fiction, poetry, or drama to the seminal ideas of its time. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Publisher's Weekly 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. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Booklist Review

Gr. 10-12. Death is the narrator of this lengthy, powerful story of a town in Nazi Germany. He is a kindly, caring Death, overwhelmed by the souls he has to collect from people in the gas chambers, from soldiers on the battlefields, and from civilians killed in bombings. Death focuses on a young orphan, Liesl; her loving foster parents; the Jewish fugitive they are hiding; and a wild but gentle teen neighbor, Rudy, who defies the Hitler Youth and convinces Liesl to steal for fun. After Liesl learns to read, she steals books from everywhere. When she reads a book in the bomb shelter, even a Nazi woman is enthralled. Then the book thief writes her own story. There's too much commentary at the outset, and too much switching from past to present time, but as in Zusak's enthralling I Am the Messenger (2004), the astonishing characters, drawn without sentimentality, will grab readers. 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. --Hazel Rochman Copyright 2006 Booklist


Guardian Review

The state of Israel gives non-Jews who saved Jewish lives, or attempted to save Jewish lives, the formal recognition of being Righteous Among the Nations. In the introduction to his 2002 book The Righteous: The Unsung Heroes of the Holocaust , Martin Gilbert quotes Baruch Sharoni, a member of the committee that recognises the Righteous, as writing "[S]o many more who could have contributed to the rescue did not . . . I see the savers as true noble souls of the human race, and when I meet with them I feel somewhat inferior to them. For I know that if I had been in their place I wouldn't have been capable of such deeds." It is this sentiment which resonates as one reads Markus Zusak's truly remarkable novel. In The Book Thief , the man hiding a Jew named Max Vandenburg is decorator and part-time accordion player Hans Hubermann. One of the reasons why he's hiding this particular man is because Max's father saved his own life when they were both German soldiers in the first world war. He and his wife Rosa have also adopted a girl named Liesel, the main character of this tale. The growing relationships between Hubermann and Liesel and, later, Liesel and Max Vandenburg are central to the plot. To reveal that the story is told by Death himself may well conjure up images of Terry Pratchett's Death, in the Discworld novels, or even seem distasteful or wholly inappropriate considering the subject matter. In Zusak's hands, this narrative device is none of these things. It gives a unique and compassionate voice to a narrator who can comment on human's inhumanity to human without being ponderous, "worthy" or even quite understanding us at times. This is a beautifully balanced piece of storytelling with glimpses of what is yet to come: sometimes misleading, sometimes all too true. We meet all shades of German, from truly committed Nazis to the likes of Hans Hubermann. Zusak is no apologist, but able to give a remarkable insight into the human psyche. In addition to Liesel, the book thief of the title, characters who particularly stand out are Rudy Steiner, a close friend who is obsessed with the black athlete Jesse Owens; Ilsa Hermann, the mayor's wife, who has never recovered from the loss of her own son; both of Liesel's adoptive parents; and Max himself, who writes and illustrates a strangely beautiful short story for Liesel over whitewashed pages from a copy of Hitler's Mein Kampf Zusak, an Australian author, has said that writing the book was inspired by two real-life events related to him by his German parents: the bombing of Munich, and a teenage boy offering bread to an emaciated Jew being marched through the streets, ending with both boy and Jewish prisoner being whipped by a soldier. It is, however, the way in which Zusak combines such terrible events with such believable characters and the minutiae of everyday life in Nazi Germany that makes this book so special. A number one New York Times bestseller, The Book Thief has been marketed as an older children's book in some countries and as an adult novel in others. It could and - dare I say? - should certainly be read by both. Unsettling, thought-provoking, life-affirming, triumphant and tragic, this is a novel of breathtaking scope, masterfully told. It is an important piece of work, but also a wonderful page-turner. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Philip Ardagh is currently working on a novel for older children, due for publication by Faber in 2008. To order The Book Thief for pounds 11.99 with free UK p&p call Guardian book service on 0870 836 0875 or go to guardian.co.uk/bookshop Caption: article-bookthief.1 In The Book Thief , the man hiding a Jew named Max Vandenburg is decorator and part-time accordion player Hans Hubermann. One of the reasons why he's hiding this particular man is because Max's father saved his own life when they were both German soldiers in the first world war. He and his wife Rosa have also adopted a girl named Liesel, the main character of this tale. The growing relationships between Hubermann and Liesel and, later, Liesel and Max Vandenburg are central to the plot. In addition to Liesel, the book thief of the title, characters who particularly stand out are Rudy Steiner, a close friend who is obsessed with the black athlete Jesse Owens; Ilsa Hermann, the mayor's wife, who has never recovered from the loss of her own son; both of Liesel's adoptive parents; and Max himself, who writes and illustrates a strangely beautiful short story for Liesel over whitewashed pages from a copy of Hitler's Mein Kampf - Philip Ardagh.


Kirkus Review

When Death tells a story, you pay attention. Liesel Meminger is a young girl growing up outside of Munich in Nazi Germany, and Death tells her story as "an attempt--a flying jump of an attempt--to prove to me that you, and your human existence, are worth it." When her foster father helps her learn to read and she discovers the power of words, Liesel begins stealing books from Nazi book burnings and the mayor's wife's library. As she becomes a better reader, she becomes a writer, writing a book about her life in such a miserable time. Liesel's experiences move Death to say, "I am haunted by humans." How could the human race be "so ugly and so glorious" at the same time? This big, expansive novel is a leisurely working out of fate, of seemingly chance encounters and events that ultimately touch, like dominoes as they collide. The writing is elegant, philosophical and moving. Even at its length, it's a work to read slowly and savor. Beautiful and important. (Fiction. 12+) Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Excerpts

Excerpts

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 possible. Your soul will be in my arms. A color will be perched on my shoulder. I will carry you gently away. At that moment, you will be lying there (I rarely find people standing up). You will be caked in your own body. There might be a discovery; a scream will dribble down the air. The only sound I'll hear after that will be my own breathing, and the sound of the smell, of my footsteps. The question is, what color will everything be at that moment when I come for you? What will the sky be saying? Personally, I like a chocolate-colored sky. Dark, dark chocolate. People say it suits me. I do, however, try to enjoy every color I see--the whole spectrum. A billion or so flavors, none of them quite the same, and a sky to slowly suck on. It takes the edge off the stress. It helps me relax. ***A SMALL THEORY  *** People observe the colors of a day only at its beginnings and ends, but to me it's quite clear that a day merges through a multitude of shades and intonations, with each passing moment. A single hour can consist of thousands of different colors. Waxy yellows, cloud-spat blues. Murky darknesses. In my line of work, I make it a point to notice them. As I've been alluding to, my one saving grace is distraction. It keeps me sane. It helps me cope, considering the length of time I've been performing this job. The trouble is, who could ever replace me? Who could step in while I take a break in your stock-standard resort-style vacation destination, whether it be tropical or of the ski trip variety? The answer, of course, is nobody, which has prompted me to make a conscious, deliberate decision--to make distraction my vacation. Needless to say, I vacation in increments. In colors. Still, it's possible that you might be asking, why does he even need a vacation? What does he need distraction from? Which brings me to my next point. It's the leftover humans. The survivors. They're the ones I can't stand to look at, although on many occasions I still fail. I deliberately seek out the colors to keep my mind off them, but now and then, I witness the ones who are left behind, crumbling among the jigsaw puzzle of realization, despair, and surprise. They have punctured hearts. They have beaten lungs. Which in turn brings me to the subject I am telling you about tonight, or today, or whatever the hour and color. It's the story of one of those perpetual survivors--an expert at being left behind. 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 I saw the book thief three times. BESIDE THE RAILWAY LINE First up is something white. Of the blinding kind. Some of you are most likely thinking that white is not really a color and all of that tired sort of nonsense. Well, I'm here to tell you that it is. White is without question a color, and personally, I don't think you want to argue with me. ***A REASSURING ANNOUNCEMENT  *** Please, be calm, despite that previous threat. I am all bluster-- I am not violent. I am not malicious. I am a result. Yes, it was white. It felt as though the whole globe was dressed in snow. Like it had pulled it on, the way you pull on a sweater. Next to the train line, footprints were sunken to their shins. Trees wore blankets of ice. As you might expect, someone had died. They couldn't just leave him on the ground. For now, it wasn't such a problem, but very soon, the track ahead would be cleared and the train would need to move on. There were two guards. There was one mother and her daughter. One corpse. The mother, the girl, and the corpse remained stubborn and silent. "Well, what else do you want me to do?" The guards were tall and short. The tall one always spoke first, though he was not in charge. He looked at the smaller, rounder one. The one with the juicy red face. "Well," was the response, "we can't just leave them like this, can we?" The tall one was losing patience. "Why not?" And the smaller one damn near exploded. He looked up at the tall one's chin and cried, "Spinnst du! Are you stupid?!" The abhorrence on his cheeks was growing thicker by the moment. His skin widened. "Come on," he said, traipsing over the snow. "We'll carry all three of them back on if we have to. We'll notify the next stop." As for me, I had already made the most elementary of mistakes. I can't explain to you the severity of my self-disappointment. Originally, I'd done everything right: I studied the blinding, white-snow sky who stood at the window of the moving train. I practically inhaled it, but still, I wavered. I buckled--I became interested. In the girl. Curiosity got the better of me, and I resigned myself to stay as long as my schedule allowed, and I watched. Twenty-three minutes later, when the train was stopped, I climbed out with them. A small soul was in my arms. I stood a little to the right. The dynamic train guard duo made their way back to the mother, the girl, and the small male corpse. I clearly remember that my breath was loud that day. I'm surprised the guards didn't notice me as they walked by. The world was sagging now, under the weight of all that snow. Perhaps ten meters to my left, the pale, empty-stomached girl was standing, frost-stricken. Her mouth jittered. Her cold arms were folded. Tears were frozen to the book thief's face. From the Hardcover edition. Excerpted from The Book Thief by Markus Zusak All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.