The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak

12 Dec


Zusak, Markus. The Book Thief. Knopf, 2006. 552 pages. ISBN 978-0-375-93100-0

Plot Summary:

It’s the late 1930’s, time of the World War II, and Liesel is a young girl who is with her mother and younger brother getting ready to depart on a train so that she and her brother can go live with some foster parents. Her parents have a communist past, and they are being brought to the foster parents to put some distance between them and their biological parents. However, just before getting on the train, her brother dies and they have to unceremoniously bury him and hurry along on their journey. So, when the gravedigger drops his Handbook, she steals it as a memento of her brother’s death. This is only the first book she will steal. Liesel’s foster parents, Hans and Rosa Hubermann, are very kind parents and treat Liesel well, but she is still plagued by nightmares of her mother and brother. Hans, aka Papa, sits with Liesel every night and helps her through her nightmares. One night he notices the Grave Digger’s Handbook tucked under Liesel’s mattress and decides to teach her to read and write. Now she is ready for more books.

Critical Evaluation:

A historical fiction novel that is sure to touch your heart and possibly bring tears to your eyes. This is one of the most heartbreaking books I have ever read, with its very realistic characters and historical facts. If you didn’t understand the magnitude that World War II played on the Jews before reading this novel, you certainly would after reading this story. It is narrated by Death himself, who is oddly a very caring Death who feels sorrow at having to take so many souls during this time of war. It is a story about “a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist fighter, and quite a lot of thievery.” Liesel starts out as a foster child afraid of the world and the many horrifying things the inhabit it. Then Liesel steals a book, something she is not allowed to have, and it changes her life forever afterward. She grows into a strong-willed heroin whose capacity for kindness is astonishing. This book of survival and coming of age comes highly recommended.

Reader’s Annotation:

Liesel is a foster child and a book thief. She was stealing books before she could even read, and now she has quite the collection. What will be the next book she steals?


Markus Zusak is an Australian author who grew up hearing stories about Nazi Germany, the bombing of Munich and stories of Jews being marched through his mother’s small, German town. He always knew it was a story he wanted to tell.

At 30, Zusak has already asserted himself as one of today’s most innovative and poetic novelists. The Book Thief‘s publication help him be dubbed a ‘literary phenomenon’ by Australian and U.S. critics. Zusak is the award-winning author of four books for young adults, including The Underdog, Fighting Ruben Wolfe, Getting the Girl, and I Am the Messenger. He is a recipient of a 2006 Printz Honor for excellence in young adult literature. He lives in Sydney, Australia.


Historical Fiction

Curriculum Ties:

World History

Booktalking Ideas:

This is a story about “a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist fighter, and quite a lot of thievery.” Oh, and it’s narrated by Death.

Reading Level/Interest Level:


Challenge Issues:


Why I included this book:

This is a fantastic historical fiction novel, by the time I was done with it I felt really depressed. It won the Printz Award. And I think it would be a great book for teachers to have their teens read.

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Posted by on December 12, 2011 in LIBR 265-10 Database Project/Blog


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