The Book Thief by Austrian author Markus Zusak is a novel taking place in Nazi Germany. The book was published in 2006, and since then it has won many awards and spent over 230 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller list.
She was a girl.
In Nazi Germany.
How fitting that she was discovering the power of words.
Liesel Meminger meets Death at the age of nine when she attends the funeral of her brother. Werner died on a long train trip taking them to Molching, Germany to a foster family which will distance the children from their Communist parents. It is at the funeral that Liesel, an uneducated illiterate, steals her first book.
As Death continues to narrate the book, he observes Liesel’s relationship with her foster parents, her neighborhood, a Jewish fist fighter, and Rudy Steiner, a boy her own age. Along the way Liesel stumbles on more books, many of which she steals, and becomes a soothing voice during the Allies bombardments.
The Book Thief is a very popular novel, mainly among the young adult crowd, and I can certainly see why. The book celebrates the power of the written word, of language, and encourages people to read--providing an interesting twist in the narration.
The book's approach to the Holocaust, not tackling it straight on but looking from the sidelines, will appeal to teens as well as adults. The young heroine is a feisty girl who navigates through the claustrophobic and schizophrenic world of adults in Nazi Germany, and is both smart and tough, with admirers and haters. All the characters occupy Molching, a small town which tries to keep out of the huge events surrounding it in the nearest city (Munich) and the nearest concentration camp (Dachau), as both rich and poor struggle through their daily chores, hoping to have enough money for a few bites at the end of a long day.