Pub Writes

About the publishing Industry, editorials, and reviews

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Posted by Caitie F on November 12, 2009

Title: The Book Thief
Author: Markus Zusak
Paperback: 576 pages
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Year Published: 2006
Rating: +++++

Summary (from Book Browse)

It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .

Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist – books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.


I first read this book a year ago for my Editing Children’s Books class, then reread it last month for a book club I am in (and I suggested the book. The Book Thief is a book I find myself recommending again and again to a wide variety of people. I am not exaggerating when I say it is one of the best books I have ever read.

I may have loved it, but there are many people who did not, both in my class and in the book club. I think  the main thing that sways a person’s opinion is whether or not they like the narrator, Death. I thought this was a brilliant choice of a narrator that allowed the reader to see World War II from a new perspective. Death did not discriminate against anyone, it came to everyone. It allowed us to focus on Liesel, but also allowed us to see other parts of the war. The most beautiful and heartbreaking moment is when Death describes the Jewish souls coming out of the gas chambers.

Death was also able to give perspective on the human race that we could not have gotten from another narrator. The book ends with Death saying “I am haunted by humans.” Death is haunted by the horrible things we do to each other and the stories of the people Death has seen. It was a chilling and thought-provoking last idea in a hauntingly beautiful novel.

I loved all of the characters in the novel – Liesel, who has to deal with sadness and tragedy at a too early age; her papa, who does the right thing no matter what; to Max, the young Jewish man that they hide in the basement and becomes a friend of Liesel; to everyone in the community. There are not flat characters in this novel, which I love.

But what I love most is that it shows that not all Germans just sat there and did whatever Hitler wanted them to. It showed the compassion and fear that many of them had. It also showed the kinds of pressure people got for not joining the party and going along – you were blacklisted in the community, couldn’t get work, and treated like a lesser citizen. It showed that German people suffered also. It is a great perspective that I had not seen before.

There is a lot of discussion on whether or not this book is really a young adult novel like it has been labeled in the US, which I discuss more here.

I could talk about why I love this book for pages and pages, but I will end this by saying that you should go and read this great book!

Here are some other opinions

For a different opinion, check out The Zen Leaf

For an interesting take on it check out Rebecca Reads

And an incredibly written review at things mean a lot


2 Responses to “The Book Thief by Markus Zusak”

  1. Amanda said

    I didn’t have a problem with Death as a narrator – thought that was pretty clever, actually – but I took issues with the formatting and the style. Plus I just didn’t find the story all that breathtaking. I was very neutral about it.

  2. […] read this book for my Editing Children’s Books in the publishing program.  You can read my review of the book. To say I thought it was a good read is an understatement. More importantly though, it gave me an […]

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