Author Markus Zusak
Publisher Random House Children's Books
Teaser/Reader Annotation Death takes an interest in Liesel Meminger when she is just a child and follows her story through the end of her life.
Plot Summary The story of Liesel Meminger, as related by Death, begins on a train to Munich. Liesel and her brother are to be taken in by foster parents; sadly, her brother does not survive the journey. This is Death's first encounter with Liesel, but it will not be the last. It is 1939 in Germany. Soon Death will be everywhere. At her brother's funeral, Liesel discovers a mislaid copy of "The Gravedigger's Handbook." Her foster father uses the book to teach her to read when nightmares about her brother's death keep her up at night. When she discovers that the Nazis are responsible for the disappearance of her father, and later, her mother she begins to steal books from Nazi book burnings and from the Mayor's wife. Death spies her again when it collects an American pilot who crashes nearby. At their third meeting, Death picks up a book she drops - the story of her life, "The Book Thief".
Critical Evaluation Zusak made an excellent decision to use Death as a storytelling mechanism; it was very effective. The narrative begins with Death explaining the coping mechanisms he uses while interacting with survivors: focusing on colors in order to not see the people. As such, throughout the narrative there are interjections about what color a scene was which really drives home the magnitude of the suffering being witnessed when not even Death can deal with the situation. There was also some brilliant imagery happening; however, sometimes the metaphorical density became a bit taxing. The occasional slip of the dead metaphor or cliché is jarring, but overall fairly solid. The plot line itself was well done and engaging. It draws the reader in and has them racing through the journey. While it did get predictable in some spots, the shocking plot twists and reveals in others made up for it. Altogether, it was a solid historical novel that both male and female readers would enjoy.
About the Author Markus Zusak (June 23, 1975) is a multi-award winning Australian author whose first book, The Underdog, was published at age twenty-three. He is the son of an Austrian house painter and a German mother, the youngest of four children. As a child, he grew up listening to his mother's tales of Nazi Germany, the bombing of Munich, and the Jews that were marched through her town. The stories stuck with him and greatly influenced his most popular book, The Book Thief.
Zusak currently lives in Sydney with his wife and daughter. He has published five young adult books: The Underdog, Fighting Ruben Wolfe, Getting the Girl, I Am the Messenger, and The Book Thief. His current project is the movie adaptation of the last.
Primary Genre Historical Fiction
Curriculum Ties History, English
1) How did Death's inability to cope directly with death, despite it being his job, exemplify the true horror of the situation?
2) How does being hated and persecuted take a toll on a person's identity?
Reading Level/Interest Age 15+
Challenge Issues Violence
1) Become familiar with book and its content.
2) Refer to library's collection policies.
3) Refer to reviews from School Library Journal, Amazon, and Barnes & Nobles.
4) Get reviews from teenagers who are familiar with the book.
5) Refer to the ALA Library Bill of Rights.
Why is it included? This book has received rave reviews and deserved to be spotlighted in the collection.