BriefINK Review: ‘The Book Thief’ by Markus Zusak

Book Cover: The Book Thief by Markus ZusakBriefly: Liesel Meminger has been delivered by her mother to another family to be a foster child. Her father gone, Liesel’s mother can barely keep them afloat. Bewildered, Liesel clings to the front gate of her new home, trying to keep the exchange from happening. Her foster mother is harsh, sprinkling profanity around much like throwing grain to chickens. But it is her new papa that Liesel takes to immediately, the papa that teaches her how to read, write and to discover the love inside her new mama.

It is Hitler’s Germany, and though things are always pretty bleak on Himmel Street, they become much worse as the war goes on. Then, one day, Papa tells Liesel about a promise he once made when the Germans and the Jews fought side-by-side during The Great War. And their lives are forever changed.

Didja Like It?: I checked this book out of the library over a year ago and couldn’t bring myself to read it. I knew it was going to be a great book, so it wasn’t that I was “meh” about it. I just wasn’t ready emotionally to read a book right then about death and war and Germany and the horrible treatment of the Jews (so, no, I have never read The Boy in the Striped Pajamas either). So, I returned it and got back on the wait list a few months later. I knew it was now or never, especially with a movie in the works.

At first, I found it hard to get into. Death is the narrator, and the very first chapter was a little, unclear, I guess? But as I read and found the rhythm of the book, it turned into being the best way to tell this kind of story. Because you know what’s going to happen, generally speaking, and you know it’s going to be unpleasant. But the thing I liked the best? Death would give up little bits of information long before they were going to happen. Bad things, of course. Expiration dates and the like. But it was almost a relief to know, even though that didn’t make it easy by any means to deal with it when it actually happened. It was a 20-tissue read for me.

Anything Else to Mention?: This isn’t just a book about war or repaying a promise; it is also about living, the day-to-day existence during those horrible times and how ordinary people survived – or didn’t. Of course, it also has a healthy dose of Heil Hitlering and bigotry and whatever it was that allowed this to happen in the first place (hatred? Fear? The need to blame someone? All of these things?). Plus, Liesel had her own sadness to live with, the baggage she came with to Himmel Street. That and the first book she stole.

To Read or Not To Read: Absolutely yes.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak was published March 14, 2006 by Knopf Books for Young Readers. Ink and Page picked this book up from the library, so no one had a choice about whether it was reviewed.

Rating: 4.5

Genre: Young Adult Fiction Historical
Ages: 12 and up
You Might Want to Know: Lots of swearing, but it’s mostly in German. Well, they do tell you what it means, but there you go.

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