Monday, May 11, 2015

Finding the Color in The Book Thief

Title: The Book Thief

Author: Markus Zusak

Six word summary: Death meets girl, girl meets death.

If you love historical fiction about World War II you'll love this book.

If you dislike unusual narration styles you might want to steer clear (although really you shouldn't because this book is amazing).

A favorite quote:
"Steadily, the room shrank, till the book thief could touch the shelves within a few small steps. She ran the back of her hand along the first shelf, listening to the shuffle of her fingernails gliding across the spinal cord of each book. It sounded like an instrument, or the notes of running feet. She used both hands. She raced them. One shelf against the other. And she laughed. Her voice was sprawled out, high in her throat, and when she eventually stopped and stood in the middle of the room, she spent many minutes looking from the shelves to her fingers and back again."


As the title of my new series was inspired by this book I felt it was absolutely necessary to start here. I first met Liesel Meminger when my roommate from college, another avid reader, thrust her worn copy of The Book Thief into my hands and exclaimed "You have to read this."

The second time I met Liesel was in an academic course. Our professor asked us to read The Book Thief as a way to access how powerful literacy can be in a life. For Liesel, words become everything.

I was swept away by Zusak's artful storytelling surrounding the young protagonist and her experiences living in Germany during World War II. Liesel is sent to live with the Hubermann's, a poor family living in rural Germany, by her mother in the beginnings of the war. However, Zusak has written her story with a twist. Death is the narrator. Death meets Liesel, the book thief, three times. Each marks another death surrounding Liesel's life.

Death is able to tell Liesel's story when she, in her grief, drops a handwritten life story and he scoops it up. The book tells of her life, her friend Rudy, and the mysterious Jewish man the Hubermann's take in, Max. Books become her source of power, legitimacy, and connection and it is through books she is able to communicate, respond, and grow.

A powerful read and artfully crafted, Zusak has created a story which not only reveals the horrors of life in Germany during World War II, but also the connection which can be formed through words and community. Well worth the read.

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