The Book Thief

The Book Thief

Book - 2006
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Trying to make sense of the horrors of World War II, Death relates the story of Liesel--a young German girl whose book-stealing and story-telling talents help sustain her family and the Jewish man they are hiding, as well as their neighbors.
Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2006
Edition: 1st American ed
ISBN: 9780375831003
0375831002
9780375842207
9780375931000
0375931007
Characteristics: 552 p. ; 22 cm

Opinion

From Library Staff

A foster girl during World War II discovers ways to read and share stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids and a Jewish man hiding in her basement.

Trying to make sense of the horrors of World War II, Death relates the story of Liesel--a young German girl whose book-stealing and story-telling talents help sustain her family and the Jewish man they are hiding, as well as their neighbors.

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mariednguyen Sep 25, 2013

To be sure, "The Book Thief" attempts and achieves great final moments of tear-jerking sentiment. And Liesel is a fine heroine, a memorably strong and dauntless girl. But for every startlingly rebellious episode — Rudy's Führer-baiting impersonation of the black American athlete Jesse O... Read More »


From the critics


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b
Bushra_20
Sep 16, 2020

Death himself narrates the story of Liesel, a German girl left with foster parents just before the outbreak of World War II. Along the way to her new home with her younger brother, he dies; after the funeral, Liesel steals The Gravedigger's Handbook, though she cannot yet read. It's only the first of what will become a series of book thefts. As she settles in with her harsh but caring foster mother, Rosa, and kind foster father, Hans, Liesel gets to know her poor neighborhood and learns to read. Her obsession with books grows as the war closes in, rationing is put in place, air raids begin, and Hans hides a Jewish man in the basement. Through it all, Death travels the Earth, taking in more and more souls every day.

This is a devastatingly powerful book that bears several re-readings, and should become a staple of literature discussion groups for sophisticated teen and adult readers. This book will educate readers about living under Nazi rule, and it will inspire them to think about human nature and why some heroic people are able to put their lives on the line to do what they know is right.

b
Bookiejb
Aug 31, 2020

I thought it was contrived and manipulative. I'm surprised that people are emotionally moved by it.
Saving one, rather technical book, from the Nazi's destruction and damaging, as well as sneaking into the Mayor's library to swipe a book, when his wife has invited and welcomed her to the library? A little melodramatic to now call her a "book thief".
Some important portrayals of the humanity of some, at their peril, while observing the disgusting inhumanity of Nazis, was worthy; but I thought this was an over dramatic formulaic novel. Hardly worthy of the praise heaped on it!

pacl_teens Aug 27, 2020

"The Book Thief is a beautiful story about the power of language. Set in Germany during WWII, it follows the journey of Liesel Meminger, a young orphan who learns to love books. Though she is at first resistant to beginning a new life with her foster parents, she slowly begins to settle in. Hans, her foster father, teaches her to read, and she makes friends with other children in the neighborhood. Intrigued by the potential of the written language, she begins stealing books from a book burning and the mayor’s wife’s library. But stealing books pales in comparison to her foster parents’ crime: hiding Max, a Jewish fugitive, in their basement. After becoming Max’s friend, Liesel decides to write a book of her own.

I loved the book! The characters were well developed and easy to love. The Book Thief is different from most other WWII historical fiction novels because it has Death as the narrator and the protagonists are Germans. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants a book that will make them laugh at some times and cry at others." - Jacqueline, Grade 10

"The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak, is a brilliant, honest novel about a little girl in the midst of war-ridden Germany. Liesel is brought to a small town in Germany to live with her new foster parents during World War II. Her brother has died on the train and her mother has been sent to a concentration camp. Slowly, Liesel gets used to her new life. She steals a book, and soon falls in love with reading. She grows especially fond of her foster father while he teaches her how to read and plays the accordion for her. But the increasing tension from Germany comes in the way, and the frightfulness of the war crawls into Liesel’s life. Life gets even more unstable as she steals books (among other things), and her foster parents hide a Jewish man in their basement.

This book is narrated by death, who is personified as an honest, gentle man. This was the first time I read a story that has not been narrated by a living, human character; so that was pretty interesting. The book is also very clear and complete. There are no exaggerations and it is free of the cliches one might see in other World War II young adult fiction.

I would recommend this to patient readers of any age." - Anjani, Grade 10

a
awchestney
Aug 26, 2020

Excellent read!

s
stefaniet
Aug 26, 2020

My favorite book of all time. Love the way Markus Zusak personifies death and tells this story.

z
ziggydelor
Aug 15, 2020

What a brilliant novel by such a talented writer! This would rate as one of my favorite novels. The imagery is incredible, and the descriptions are so real and credible. This quote was striking : "She was the book thief without the words. Trust me, though, the words were on their way, and when they arrived, Liesel would hold them in her hands like the clouds, and she would wring them out like the rain." WOW!

a
andreabilyeu
Aug 11, 2020

I saw the movie first, but, as is so common, the book is better. I would never have associated colors and death together.

v
vrohit
Aug 09, 2020

A very subtle concept guides this novel, and it is the goal of the reader to figure it out. There are several ways to interpret the novel - but the main plot, one that must be understood, is the struggle of Jewish families to stay alive during World War Two. It teaches us the importance of morals and love, but it also introduces us to reality for Jews during World War Two. This story is also very sad, as we can see life for Jews during the war and Jews, who are purely innocent, being bullied, harmed, massacred. It's absolutely horrific to witness humans treating other humans in this way. This story exposes the truths of World War Two and helps others understand reality during that time. Zusak does a perfect job of establishing points of views of main characters throughout the novel. Nice read!

s
Sean_Exon
Aug 04, 2020

The Book Thief is a historical fiction that took place during WWII in Germany, narrated by Death who came to collect the souls of those who died. The story takes the reader through the plight of a teenage girl named Liesel. Through her foster parents, she learned two of the most important lessons that shaped her life, 1) learn to read and 2) show compassion toward the Jews even if it means great personal danger. Throughout the story, she stole books that the Nazis forbid. She read to neighbors to help them take their minds off the war and death that surrounded them. In further defiance of the Nazis, her foster parents hid Max, a Jewish boy, in their basement. Eventually Max was found and was led to a concentration camp. The war came to Liesel’s town and her street was destroyed. Everyone she loved perished leaving her the sole survivor.

This is one of the best books I have ever read. I appreciate the story from the historical perspective to the German citizens resisting the Nazis. I find the most interesting character in this book to be the narrator, Death. A lot of people are afraid to die, but here, Death is afraid of human because he saw firsthand the evil and destruction human are capable of. I appreciate that the book shows the destruction that Nazi Germany caused and that many German citizens during WWII defied the Nazis to help the Jews. Overall, I cannot think of one bad thing to say about this book.

PimaLib_ChristineR Jul 23, 2020

Unlike most readers, I came to The Book Thief because I read Bridge of Clay, a book that I love and highly recommend. Many reviews were not glowing and the general sentiment seemed to be "this isn't as good as The Book Thief." Wow! I thought, better than this? I have to read it. And now I will spin those reviews and say The Book Thief is no Bridge of Clay.

Zusak is an exemplary writer. His writing takes me back to the early realists and naturalists, a style like Crane or Dryser. But rather than just presenting a "slice of life" Zusak is grappling with big themes here: the meaning (or lack) of life, the randomness of death and what it means for those left behind. Death, the narrator of The Book Thief, tells the reader he needs a vacation from "the leftover humans. The survivors. They’re the ones I can’t stand to look at... the ones who are left behind, crumbling among the jigsaw puzzles of realization, despair, and surprise."

But his exemplary writing is lacking one thing here, a feel for the personal. There is a reason I compared Zusak to Crane and not Steinbeck. And that difference is what makes an author popular for his time and the other becomes a classic, popular well beyond his own lifespan. Perhaps the personification of Death was meant to bridge that lack, but if so, it didn’t work. And so, while I appreciate the technicality of the writing and the subject matter, for me, The Book Thief lacked the heart of Bridge of Clay.

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Age

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s
Sean_Exon
Aug 04, 2020

Sean_Exon thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over

p
PHejazian
Jul 21, 2020

PHejazian thinks this title is suitable for 12 years and over

a
abc123abc123123
Jul 07, 2020

abc123abc123123 thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over

t
tamyerpi
Jun 18, 2020

tamyerpi thinks this title is suitable for 12 years and over

t
tang88260_0
Jun 14, 2020

tang88260_0 thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over

n
NicePerson_290
Mar 07, 2020

NicePerson_290 thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over

b
black_cat_3443
Feb 18, 2020

black_cat_3443 thinks this title is suitable for 12 years and over

v
VanessaL52
Feb 01, 2020

VanessaL52 thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over

i
ikokwu
Jun 01, 2019

ikokwu thinks this title is suitable for 11 years and over

i
indigo_bird_126
Apr 01, 2019

indigo_bird_126 thinks this title is suitable for 12 years and over

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Quotes

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s
swilson1975
Jun 14, 2018

"I carried them in my fingers, like suitcases. Or I'd throw them over my shoulder. It was only the children I carried in my arms."

v
violet_crow_41
Aug 26, 2017

*** A LAST NOTE FROM YOUR NARRARATOR***
I am haunted by humans.

susanbayridge69 Oct 04, 2016

First the colors.
Then the humans.
That's usually how I see things.
Or at least, how I try.

k
katie_bos
Jan 05, 2016

"It was a Monday, and they walked on a tightrope to the sun."

e
elaine_malit
Aug 05, 2015

Imagine smiling after a slap in the face. Then think of doing it twenty-four hours a day.

m
maaariiisol
Jul 28, 2015

A small announcement about Rudy Steiner. He didn't deserve to die that way.

m
maaariiisol
Jul 28, 2015

How about a kiss, Saumensch?

m
maaariiisol
Jul 28, 2015

Even death has a heart.

j
Julia_Kh
Jul 03, 2015

" How about a kiss, saumensch ? "

f
FatimaNasir_1
Jun 28, 2015

“If only she could be so oblivious again, to feel such love without knowing it, mistaking it for laughter. ”
― Markus Zusak

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Notices

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j
Jamie510
Jul 25, 2020

Other: Your life and heart will change especially your innocense about history in general.

v
VanessaL52
Feb 01, 2020

Frightening or Intense Scenes: Nazis Germany

v
VanessaL52
Feb 01, 2020

Violence: Nazis Germany

t
Tawesome
Apr 04, 2017

Other: YOU WILL CRY

susanbayridge69 Oct 04, 2016

Coarse Language: Some curse words

m
maaariiisol
Jul 28, 2015

Coarse Language: The bad language is in German, but Death translates it to English. Nothing serious, but certainly not for younger readers.

m
maaariiisol
Jul 28, 2015

Frightening or Intense Scenes: a few gruesome deaths, bombings, lifeless bodies.

m
maaariiisol
Jul 28, 2015

Violence: Some whipping.

y
YewandeO
Jul 01, 2015

Frightening or Intense Scenes: The "parade" of Jews was a bit frightening, and the whipping and war.

y
YewandeO
Jul 01, 2015

Violence: Some whipping, fights, and other violence related to war.

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Summary

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r
readingfairy
Jan 03, 2018

Liesel Meminger is only nine years old when she is taken to live with the Hubermanns, a foster family, on Himmel Street in Molching, Germany, in the late 1930s. She arrives with few possessions, but among them is The /Grave Digger's Handbook/, a book she stole from her brother's burial place. During the years that Liesel lives with the Hubermanns, Hitler becomes more powerful, life on Himmel Street becomes more fearful, and Liesel becomes a full-fledged book thief. She rescues books from Nazie book-burnings and steals from the library of the mayor. Liesel is illiterate when she steals her first book, but Hans Hubermann uses her prized books to teach her to read. This is a story of courage, friendship, love, survival, death, and grief. This is Liesel's life on Himmel Street, told from Death's point of view.
(Summary in back of book.)

geniusgirl613 Jul 23, 2014

The story of a young girl under Nazi Germany. When her family hides a Jew in the basement, her life changes forever. Her thirst for books begins when she was illiterate. Slowly, books play an enormous part in her story.

j
Jaklinetobe
Jul 14, 2014

About a Germany girl during WWII who is living with a foster family hiding a Jew.

2
22950008513780
Jun 29, 2014

Liesel Meminger, an illiterate girl in Nazi Germany loves books. At her brothers funeral she finds her first book, the Grave Diggers Handbook. With the help of her foster father, Hans Hubermann she learns to read and desires more books. However with World War 2 her family is sinking deeper into poverty and cannot afford to buy her books. So she resorts to stealing them. She takes them wherever she can find them, but only what she needs never more. But Liesel's life gets even more dangerous when her foster father repays a debt by taking in a Jew on the run. Liesel then realizes some unsettling facts about Nazi Germany and Hitler. This book is Liesel Meminger's story, told by Death.

d
DragonflyEwa23
Jun 25, 2014

In brief, I will say a few things about this book (I am on my mothers library page) 1. It is amazing
2. Always look at the pictures they feature very intensely in the story.
The Book Thief
the book thief is about young girl, living in Nazi Germany, who, as the title suggests, is a book thief. Or a collector of second hand books, however you wish to put it. Narrated by death, it will guide you through great joys and great sorrows. (A note, death loves colours, Also, I have noticed the colour patterns in a few other books) Liesel steals her first book at her brothers funeral. That was the last time she ever saw her mother. Along her "illustrious career" her foster parents take an old, dead, acordian playing, jewish friends son into the custody of their basement. A basement that will save her alone, well, along with a story. The basement doesn't save her best friend, Rudy Stiener. I'm not telling any more, otherwise I'll spoil it for you.

d
Draw
Jul 19, 2013

"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.

This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul."

p
pojo6865
Jul 05, 2012

Introduction: During WWII in 1939, Liesel and her brother are being taken to Molching, Germany with her mother, to live with foster parents. Sadly, her little brother dies on the train and is buried along the way there. This is when Liesel steals her first book, (Gravedigger’s Handbook- marks brother’s death). Entering her new home, Liesel finds most comfort and love with her new father- Hans Hubermann. Stealing books becomes somewhat of a hobby now, as it motivates her to learn to read and write. An important aspect of the introduction is the hint at Liesel’s background. She learns more about why, how, and what actually happened to her real parents. As of right now, all we know is that Hans is gentle/welcoming, and that Rosa may need anger-management classes.
Rising Action: After the book-burning celebration for Hitler’s birthday, Liesel realizes that the Nazis are responsible for all of her losses. At this point, she steals another book (the Shoulder Shrug- marks hatred for Hitler). Along with her friendship with Rudy Steiner, good friend from school, she forms a relationship with the mayor’s wife, who lets Liesel in her library every time she comes by for laundry (as she saw Liesel’s interest in stealing the Shoulder Shrug). But when the wife, Ilsa, ends the laundry service, Liesel is infuriated and begins stealing her books. Eventually though, forgiveness awakes due to a complicated friendship that was always present. Back to Rudy, he’s a fearless boy with lemon hair, and he wants Liesel’s lips. Remember that. Meanwhile, there’s the story of Hans Hubermann and his great friend during WWI who saved Hans’s life and died in consequence. This friend happens to be a Jew, and his son is now seeking help with Hans, in hiding from the Nazis. Expectedly, the family is worried about the potential situation, since the act of housing a Jew in WWII was life-jeopardising. But they do, and Max turns out to be very friendly. So does Rosa. Especially Hans.
Climax: A series of little events tagged along for the journey to the climax. But, everything explodes when Max leaves for safety. Liesel is…she’s devastated. But, there is worse to come. He’s seen in a hoard of Jews on their way to Dachau, and this just tears the girl apart. Soon after, Ilsa gave Liesel a blank book. This saves the girl’s life, keeping her busy writing in the basement in an unexpected bombing. Sadly, all of Liesel’s loved ones die in their sleep. Death takes his time picking up Rosa, Hans, Kurt... Oh yeah, Rudy dies too, but at least he gets his long-awaited kiss from Liesel. Too bad it happens like this.
Falling Action: Well, the climax occurs late in the book, and in consequence, there’s not much to be said in this section. But, it is notable that Liesel drops her book in shock of everybody’s death (book = her life-story painted on the beloved blank pages from Ilsa). Death picks it up. The book is to be remembered. The mayor’s wife takes her in. Liesel talks with Alex Steiner. About Rudy. I’m sorry, am I being too specific?
It’s...well...just that......I love this part.
Resolution: In the epilogue, Liesel dies. But, she has lived a happy life with a husband and offspring. We also see Liesel being reunited with Max, having miraculously survived his sentence at Dachau. The book ends under a fulfilling atmosphere as Death gives back her book and takes her soul away. “I am haunted by humans.”

SharonWarren Jan 20, 2012

I started this book and it just didn't keep my attention, so gave it up, for a time. It had been so highly recommended I knew it would come back on my list. When next I picked it up I was ready for it and absolutely loved it. An engrossing, warm, and thoughtful read about a very difficult time.

f
FrostyViolette
Dec 15, 2009

An amazing story that takes place during World War II in Nazi Germany. Death narrates the story of a young girl named Liesel and her life living with her foster parents, the Hubermanns.

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