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The Book Thief
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New or Used: 7 copies from $12.80
New or Used: 7 copies from $12.80

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Gr 9 Up-With Death as narrator, Markus Zusak's haunting novel (Knopf, 2003) follows Liesel Meminger, The Book Thief, through the fear-filled years of Nazi Germany. The story opens as the ten-year-old girl takes her first book shortly after her younger brother's death. Both children were en route to the foster home of Hans and Rosa Hubermann in a Munich suburb. Despite Rosa's sharp tongue and Hans's lack of work, their home is a loving refuge for the nightmare-ridden girl. It also becomes a hideout for Max, a young Jewish man whose father saved Hans's life. Liesel finds solace with her neighbor Rudy and her creative partnership with Max. Accompanied by Rudy, the girl copes by stealing food from farmers and books from the mayor's wife. There are also good moments as she learns to read and plays soccer, but Hans's ill-advised act of kindness to a Jewish prisoner forces Max to leave their safe house. The failing war effort and bombing by the Allies lead to more sacrifices, a local suicide and, eventually, to great losses. Reading books and writing down her experiences save Liesel, but this novel clearly depicts the devastating effects of war. Narrator Allan Corduner defines each character with perfect timing. He's deliberate as the voice of Death, softly strong as Liesel, and impatient, but not unkind, as Rosa. With richly evocative imagery and compelling characters, Zusak explores behind-the-lines life in World War II Germany, showing the day-to-day heroism of ordinary people. Relevant for class discussions on wars both past and present.-Barbara Wysocki, Cora J. Belden Library, Rocky Hill, CT Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Death, "a companionable if sarcastic fellow," narrates this sophisticated novel set in small-town Germany during WWII. "It's a measure of how successfully Zusak has humanized these characters that even though we know they are doomed, it's no less devastating when Death finally reaches them," PW wrote in a starred review. Ages 12-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
This hefty volume is an achievement-a challenging book in both length and subject, and best suited to sophisticated older readers. The narrator is Death himself, a companionable if sarcastic fellow, who travels the globe "handing souls to the conveyor belt of eternity." Death keeps plenty busy during the course of this WWII tale, even though Zusak (I Am the Messenger) works in miniature, focusing on the lives of ordinary Germans in a small town outside Munich. Liesel Meminger, the book thief, is nine when she pockets The Gravedigger's Handbook, found in a snowy cemetery after her little brother's funeral. Liesel's father-a "Kommunist"-is already missing when her mother hands her into the care of the Hubermanns. Rosa Hubermann has a sharp tongue, but Hans has eyes "made of kindness." He helps Liesel overcome her nightmares by teaching her to read late at night. Hans is haunted himself, by the Jewish soldier who saved his life during WWI. His promise to repay that debt comes due when the man's son, Max, shows up on his doorstep. This "small story," as Death calls it, threads together gem-like scenes of the fates of families in this tight community, and is punctuated by Max's affecting, primitive artwork rendered on painted-over pages from Mein Kampf. Death also directly addresses readers in frequent asides; Zusak's playfulness with language leavens the horror and makes the theme even more resonant-words can save your life. As a storyteller, Death has a bad habit of forecasting ("I'm spoiling the ending," he admits halfway through his tale). It's a measure of how successfully Zusak has humanized these characters that even though we know they are doomed, it's no less devastating when Death finally reaches them. Ages 12-up. (Mar.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Corduner uses considerable zeal and a talent for accents to navigate Zusak's compelling, challenging novel set in Nazi Germany. Death serves as knowing narrator for the tale, which is framed much like a lengthy flashback. The storytelling aspects of this structure include asides to the listener, and lots of foreshadowing about what eventually happens to the various lead characters-appealing features for listeners. But Corduner seems to most enjoy embracing the heart of things here-the rather small and ordinary saga of 10-year-old Liesel Meminger, who has been given over to a foster family following her mother's branding as a "Kommunist" and the death of her younger brother. Under her foster parents' care, she learns how to read, how to keep terrifying secrets and how to hone her skills as a book thief, a practice that keeps her sane and feeds her newfound love of words. With quick vocal strokes, Corduner paints vivid, provocative portraits of Germans and Jews under unfathomable duress and the ripple effect such circumstances have on their lives. Ages 12-up. (Oct.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Gr 9 Up-Zusak has created a work that deserves the attention of sophisticated teen and adult readers. Death himself narrates the World War II-era story of Liesel Meminger from the time she is taken, at age nine, to live in Molching, Germany, with a foster family in a working-class neighborhood of tough kids, acid-tongued mothers, and loving fathers who earn their living by the work of their hands. The child arrives having just stolen her first book-although she has not yet learned how to read-and her foster father uses it, The Gravedigger's Handbook, to lull her to sleep when she's roused by regular nightmares about her younger brother's death. Across the ensuing years of the late 1930s and into the 1940s, Liesel collects more stolen books as well as a peculiar set of friends: the boy Rudy, the Jewish refugee Max, the mayor's reclusive wife (who has a whole library from which she allows Liesel to steal), and especially her foster parents. Zusak not only creates a mesmerizing and original story but also writes with poetic syntax, causing readers to deliberate over phrases and lines, even as the action impels them forward. Death is not a sentimental storyteller, but he does attend to an array of satisfying details, giving Liesel's story all the nuances of chance, folly, and fulfilled expectation that it deserves. An extraordinary narrative.-Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information. Gr 9 Up-With Death as narrator, Markus Zusak's haunting novel (Knopf, 2003) follows Liesel Meminger, The Book Thief, through the fear-filled years of Nazi Germany. The story opens as the ten-year-old girl takes her first book shortly after her younger brother's death. Both children were en route to the foster home of Hans and Rosa Hubermann in a Munich suburb. Despite Rosa's sharp tongue and Hans's lack of work, their home is a loving refuge for the nightmare-ridden girl. It also becomes a hideout for Max, a young Jewish man whose father saved Hans's life. Liesel finds solace with her neighbor Rudy and her creative partnership with Max. Accompanied by Rudy, the girl copes by stealing food from farmers and books from the mayor's wife. There are also good moments as she learns to read and plays soccer, but Hans's ill-advised act of kindness to a Jewish prisoner forces Max to leave their safe house. The failing war effort and bombing by the Allies lead to more sacrifices, a local suicide and, eventually, to great losses. Reading books and writing down her experiences save Liesel, but this novel clearly depicts the devastating effects of war. Narrator Allan Corduner defines each character with perfect timing. He's deliberate as the voice of Death, softly strong as Liesel, and impatient, but not unkind, as Rosa. With richly evocative imagery and compelling characters, Zusak explores behind-the-lines life in World War II Germany, showing the day-to-day heroism of ordinary people. Relevant for class discussions on wars both past and present.-Barbara Wysocki, Cora J. Belden Library, Rocky Hill, CT Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Death, "a companionable if sarcastic fellow," narrates this sophisticated novel set in small-town Germany during WWII. "It's a measure of how successfully Zusak has humanized these characters that even though we know they are doomed, it's no less devastating when Death finally reaches them," PW wrote in a starred review. Ages 12-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
This hefty volume is an achievement-a challenging book in both length and subject, and best suited to sophisticated older readers. The narrator is Death himself, a companionable if sarcastic fellow, who travels the globe "handing souls to the conveyor belt of eternity." Death keeps plenty busy during the course of this WWII tale, even though Zusak (I Am the Messenger) works in miniature, focusing on the lives of ordinary Germans in a small town outside Munich. Liesel Meminger, the book thief, is nine when she pockets The Gravedigger's Handbook, found in a snowy cemetery after her little brother's funeral. Liesel's father-a "Kommunist"-is already missing when her mother hands her into the care of the Hubermanns. Rosa Hubermann has a sharp tongue, but Hans has eyes "made of kindness." He helps Liesel overcome her nightmares by teaching her to read late at night. Hans is haunted himself, by the Jewish soldier who saved his life during WWI. His promise to repay that debt comes due when the man's son, Max, shows up on his doorstep. This "small story," as Death calls it, threads together gem-like scenes of the fates of families in this tight community, and is punctuated by Max's affecting, primitive artwork rendered on painted-over pages from Mein Kampf. Death also directly addresses readers in frequent asides; Zusak's playfulness with language leavens the horror and makes the theme even more resonant-words can save your life. As a storyteller, Death has a bad habit of forecasting ("I'm spoiling the ending," he admits halfway through his tale). It's a measure of how successfully Zusak has humanized these characters that even though we know they are doomed, it's no less devastating when Death finally reaches them. Ages 12-up. (Mar.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Corduner uses considerable zeal and a talent for accents to navigate Zusak's compelling, challenging novel set in Nazi Germany. Death serves as knowing narrator for the tale, which is framed much like a lengthy flashback. The storytelling aspects of this structure include asides to the listener, and lots of foreshadowing about what eventually happens to the various lead characters-appealing features for listeners. But Corduner seems to most enjoy embracing the heart of things here-the rather small and ordinary saga of 10-year-old Liesel Meminger, who has been given over to a foster family following her mother's branding as a "Kommunist" and the death of her younger brother. Under her foster parents' care, she learns how to read, how to keep terrifying secrets and how to hone her skills as a book thief, a practice that keeps her sane and feeds her newfound love of words. With quick vocal strokes, Corduner paints vivid, provocative portraits of Germans and Jews under unfathomable duress and the ripple effect such circumstances have on their lives. Ages 12-up. (Oct.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Gr 9 Up-Zusak has created a work that deserves the attention of sophisticated teen and adult readers. Death himself narrates the World War II-era story of Liesel Meminger from the time she is taken, at age nine, to live in Molching, Germany, with a foster family in a working-class neighborhood of tough kids, acid-tongued mothers, and loving fathers who earn their living by the work of their hands. The child arrives having just stolen her first book-although she has not yet learned how to read-and her foster father uses it, The Gravedigger's Handbook, to lull her to sleep when she's roused by regular nightmares about her younger brother's death. Across the ensuing years of the late 1930s and into the 1940s, Liesel collects more stolen books as well as a peculiar set of friends: the boy Rudy, the Jewish refugee Max, the mayor's reclusive wife (who has a whole library from which she allows Liesel to steal), and especially her foster parents. Zusak not only creates a mesmerizing and original story but also writes with poetic syntax, causing readers to deliberate over phrases and lines, even as the action impels them forward. Death is not a sentimental storyteller, but he does attend to an array of satisfying details, giving Liesel's story all the nuances of chance, folly, and fulfilled expectation that it deserves. An extraordinary narrative.-Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Reviews

Nazi Germany during World War II is the backdrop for this "small story" that explores the power of words to affect the human condition. Death is the narrator here, performed with detached perfection by Corduner, recounting the story of the young thief, Liesel, who discovers books have the ability to sustain her community amidst the horrors of war. This 2007 Michael L. Printz Honor Book is also a Common Core text exemplar for grades 9-10. Common Core Standard: RL.9-10.2. Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text. Content Standard: Massachusetts (Reading Standards for Literature 6-12) Grades 9-10: MA.8.A. Relate a work of fiction, poetry, or drama to the seminal ideas of its time. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Corduner uses considerable zeal and a talent for accents to navigate Zusak's compelling, challenging novel set in Nazi Germany. Death serves as knowing narrator for the tale, which is framed much like a lengthy flashback. The storytelling aspects of this structure include asides to the listener, and lots of foreshadowing about what eventually happens to the various lead characters-appealing features for listeners. But Corduner seems to most enjoy embracing the heart of things here-the rather small and ordinary saga of 10-year-old Liesel Meminger, who has been given over to a foster family following her mother's branding as a "Kommunist" and the death of her younger brother. Under her foster parents' care, she learns how to read, how to keep terrifying secrets and how to hone her skills as a book thief, a practice that keeps her sane and feeds her newfound love of words. With quick vocal strokes, Corduner paints vivid, provocative portraits of Germans and Jews under unfathomable duress and the ripple effect such circumstances have on their lives. Ages 12-up. (Oct.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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