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The Book Thief
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About the Author

Markus Zusak is the international bestselling author of six novels, including The Book Thief and most recently, Bridge of Clay. His work is translated into more than forty languages, and has spent more than a decade on the New York Times bestseller list, establishing Zusak as one of the most successful authors to come out of Australia.
All of Zusak's books - including earlier titles, The Underdog, Fighting Ruben Wolfe, When Dogs Cry (also titled Getting the Girl), and The Messenger (or I am the Messenger) - have been awarded numerous honors around the world, ranging from literary prizes to readers choice awards to prizes voted on by booksellers.
In 2013, The Book Thief was made into a major motion picture, and in 2018 was voted one of America's all-time favorite books, achieving the 14th position on the PBS Great American Read. Also in 2018, Bridge of Clay was selected as a best book of the year in publications ranging from Entertainment Weekly to the Wall Street Journal.
Markus Zusak grew up in Sydney, Australia, and still lives there with his wife and two children.

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.

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.

"Brilliant and hugely ambitious...Some will argue that a book so difficult and sad may not be appropriate for teenage readers...Adults will probably like it (this one did), but it's a great young-adult novel...It's the kind of book that can be life-changing, because without ever denying the essential amorality and randomness of the natural order, The Book Thief offers us a believable hard-won hope...The hope we see in Liesel is unassailable, the kind you can hang on to in the midst of poverty and war and violence. Young readers need such alternatives to ideological rigidity, and such explorations of how stories matter. And so, come to think of it, do adults." -New York Times, May 14, 2006 "The Book Thief is unsettling and unsentimental, yet ultimately poetic. Its grimness and tragedy run through the reader's mind like a black-and-white movie, bereft of the colors of life. Zusak may not have lived under Nazi domination, but The Book Thief deserves a place on the same shelf with The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank and Elie Wiesel's Night. It seems poised to become a classic."
- USA Today

"Zusak doesn't sugarcoat anything, but he makes his ostensibly gloomy subject bearable the same way Kurt Vonnegut did in Slaughterhouse-Five with grim, darkly consoling humor."
- Time Magazine

"Elegant, philosophical and moving...Beautiful and important."
- Kirkus Reviews, Starred
"This hefty volume is an achievement...a challenging book in both length
and subject..."
- Publisher's Weekly, Starred "One of the most highly anticipated young-adult books in years."
- The Wall Street Journal

"Exquisitely written and memorably populated, Zusak's poignant tribute to words, survival, and their curiously inevitable entwinement is a tour de force to be not just read but inhabited."
- The Horn Book Magazine, Starred "An extraordinary narrative."
- School Library Journal, Starred "The Book Thief will be appreciated for Mr. Zusak's audacity, also on display in his earlier I Am the Messenger. It will be widely read and admired because it tells a story in which books become treasures. And because there's no arguing with a sentiment like that."
- New York Times

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