The Book Thief

Author: Markus Zusak
My recommended reading age: 16 and up
Reading Level: 4.0
Lexile: 740L
Interest Level: grades 9-12
Historical Fiction

"The Book Thief" is actually a young girl named Liesel living in Germany during World War II.  She steals her fist book while traveling to live with her foster family, and continues to "steal" books through the rest of the book.  Her thefts are never malicious, rather they are an element to tell the story.  The narrative takes us through several years of the war, and the circumstances that Liesel, along with her friends and family have to deal with.  The situations are a stark reminder of the average German citizen's perspective of the war.  Many people think that all of the Germans were like the Nazi's, and this book shows this to be untrue.

The narrative of the story is fascinating; however, I found it rather hard to get into.  I really struggled through the first 75 pages or so before the book became a must read for me.  I think younger teens will find the book hard to understand and the writing style difficult.  It doesn't read like a normal "story", and takes thinking to follow.  The subject matter is definitely not for the faint of heart either.  We hear of prejudice, particularly towards Jews, discrimination, death, war, and if you speak German, the language is atrocious (thank goodness my college German classes skipped over cussing).  Remember too that this is not a fluffy book by any stretch of the imagination, and the phrase "throw away reading" does not apply at all!  Overall a great read for a book group or high school English class.  Lots to discuss here!


Liz says:
I loved this book!  Although, my love probably stems from the fact that I have family who lived in Germany during WWII, I found it to be an excellent representation of the struggles, both moral and physical that occur during times of war and oppression.  I started this on audio-book and found that I could very quickly understand the narrator voice and the story of Leisel.

For those waiting for Maria Von Trapp to come down from the hills and teach us all how to sing, this is not the book for you.  Parents need to know that this book is intended for older teens and adults.  There are kids smoking cigarettes, stealing, violence, kids imagining each other naked, and brutal deaths.  Plus, it is written in a way that will simply "go right over" younger teen's heads.

I tend to "eat up" WWII fiction and then continue to look for more.  Even though, The Book Thief doesn't sugar-coat some of the deep issues associated with the war, I would definately add this to my list of must reads.  I think it is right up there with Anne Frank and The Hiding Place.

Happy Reading

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