Steal Away to a Book

REVIEW of Zusak, Markus. The Book Thief. Illus. by T. White. Alfred A. Knopf, 2005. 550p. $12.99 Trade pb. 978-0-385-75472-9. A Readers Guide (About the Book. Questions for Discussion. Related Titles. Internet Resources. In His Own Words: A Conversation with Markus Zusak).

[VOYA codes:] 5Q  4P  S

Liesel is sprouting through adolescence in World War II Germany and becoming a stealer of food and books. The horrors of war creep into her needy neighborhood, until her smothering world is overrun with terror, anxiety, Nazi propaganda and oppression.  Liesel and her foster parents have secrets that threaten to extinguish them – a hidden Jew, adrenalined burglaries in the mayor’s mansion, compassionate deeds, and more.  Young Rudy Steiner doesn’t know all the hidden nightmares in Liesel’s sleeping and waking hours, but together they share the comforts of friendship and the thrills of wit, pluck, covert daring and twinges of desire that anchor their day-to-day survival.

There is something astonishing to rejoice about in this heart-wrenching, thought-provoking story, and that is the power of words, books, and writing. Liesel cannot resist them, and clutches them close to her in any way she can.  Death itself is the compelling narrator who teases the reader with hints of the future, begs for comfort, and twists the many notions of mortality.  Stolen books, crusty papers, profound announcements, and small, exquisite, pictured stories claimed from the heart and soul bring this award-winning title to life.  (The story has also been brought to life in a motion picture based on this title and released in 2013.)

In an earnest style that brings to mind Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl, The Book Thief gracefully affirms the power of the human spirit and the ways in which words and books keep the lifeblood flowing when existence is critically wounded. Readers will be awed and very likely changed by the profound beauty and vigor in this one-of-a-kind book.

Highly recommended

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