The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Genre:  Historical Fiction/WW II Germany

Reading Level:  Age 14 and up

# of Pages: 550

RAC book:  Yes

This story, narrated by Death, follows Liesel, a young girl during WWII in Germany who is sent by her mother to live with foster parents.  Her brother was supposed to go too, but died on the journey.  Liesel feels abandoned, but soon learns to love her new father.  He is kind and sits with her when she has nightmares.  He also plays the accordian for her.  Her new mother is harsh and uses poor language, but as time goes on Liesel comes to appreciate that times are hard and her new mother does indeed care about her. 

The story follows many different aspects of this time including Hitler Youth, concentration camps, rations, Kristallnacht, and the pressure to join the Nazi party.  Liesel’s family hides Max, a Jew, for awhile as a favor to a friend of her foster father’s who died in WWI.  When her father makes the mistake of showing compassion for Jews who are marched through town from a concentration camp he is punished by getting drafted into the war.  When her best friend, Rudy, is summoned to serve in the war, his father refuses and he is drafted as well.  Liesel tries her best to follow the rules, but she becomes bitter at what the party has done to her friends, family, and herself.  She begins to steal books so that she can learn new ideas different from those fed to her in Hitler Youth.  Her books help her survive many difficult times that lay ahead for her.

 The Book Thief is a wonderful story about a girl trying to survive Nazi Germany.  She never fully recovers from losing her mother and her brother, but nevertheless finds some happiness through her foster parents, best friend Rudy, new friend Max, and finally through her books.  The idea of knowledge and power are strong themes in this book and reflect how Hitler stripped his people of these in order to take control.  This story is powerful  and will stay with a reader long after he or she has finished it.

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