The Book Thief
by Markus Zusak
On our recent trip to Washington D.C., we had many serious discussions about whether or not to go to the Holocaust Museum. Their age recommendation is 11 and over. My son is 11. The final decision was "not this trip." All of the discussions left him with an interest in the time period. He is rapidly reading non-fiction and asked me for some fiction recommendations. There are many good choices, and I am going to cover them in the next few days, but my new favorite is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.
It is original from the start. Death is the narrator, and a fine one he is. I am not sure if Zusak actually referred to him as "he", but he seemed like a man to me. I can't say why. He becomes infatuated with a young girl, Liesel, who continues to bump up next to him, but never be ready for his services. She is a young lady in Nazi Germany. She is an orphan being moved to foster care. On the way, she steals her first book. Her new foster father teaches her to read and she keeps stealing the books. She makes many close relationships, including one with the Jewish man that her foster family is hiding in their home in the heart of Germany. Through Liesel's eyes, we are witness to the events in Germany during the war. Because of her love of books and her need for them to survive her meager existence, we are reminded of how a book can feed the soul.
I have read it with many groups of kids-Always with great success. The text is simple, and the symbolism fantastic. Please share this remarkable book with any reader who has an interest in World War II.