Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Fall Into Reading 2007 #4 - The Book Thief

After reading such a horrible book like Happiness Sold Separately - a book that makes you wish that you could open up your skin and pour boric acid on your insides just so you can feel slightly clean again, I decided to make a foray into some good reading, specifically a book narrated by Death who is telling the story of a young German-Jew girl on the cusp of understanding the beauty of life and love in the middle of Hitler’s quest for ultimate power.

Yes, light reading.  I buckled down and read The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

Who knew that Death could be so witty, personable and an admirer of a girl with guts? Well, Markus Zusak knew, that’s for sure. And he knew that it would work for young (and older) adults too.

Told from the viewpoint of Death during World War II, Zusak wrote a breathtaking novel about the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Eager for acceptance, ready to stand and fight for herself, hungry (literally) for substance in life, she fights for everything around her until she encounters something she can’t resist – books. It is her love of the written word that deems her "the book thief".  With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and eventually shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids. This is an haunting story about the ability of books to feed the soul.

It is not until Liesel befriends Max Vandenburg, a 24-year-old Jewish man being hidden in Liesel's basement by her compassionate foster parents, that the course of Liesel's life is altered. Together, Max and Liesel discover a shared love of words that leads to a crucial understanding about the role words play in both bravery and cowardice. Each, in their own way, sets out to use this knowledge to shape the world around them.

Each of the characters are beautifully crafted into memorable, realistic beings. Liesel is a charming young girl who so desperately wants to be wanted. Her kind-hearted foster father has the gift of music as well as a heart of gold. Her foster mother is a diamond in the rough; her bark is worse than her bite. Rudy, Liesel’s best friend, greatest admirer and would-be boyfriend, will make you laugh at his antics, cry over his bravery and make you fall in love with his faithfulness. Max will make your heart break open over his story, cheer for his courage and want his gifts that he has to offer. And Death? He is mesmerizing through and through as an astute observer to humanity. How can you not appreciate Death when he makes statements such as this?

“A human doesn't have a heart like mine. The human heart is a line, whereas my own is a circle, and I have the endless ability to be in the right place at the right time. The consequence of this is that I'm always finding humans at their best and worst. I see their ugly and their beauty, and I wonder how the same thing can be both."

This book will make you laugh, and it will make you cry. But no matter what, it will make you feel.

So, I guess what I’m trying to say is READ THIS BOOK!  Yep, that about sums it up.

(Although this book is in the Young Adult reading section in the Children's area of the library, I would recommend this book to the older aged kids - 14 years old and up.  There is a small bit of cursing, which is for the most part - but not all - in German and the mature theme concerning death/prison camps/propaganda should be considered as well.  But it is an excellent book to discuss with your teen.)

Reading list and previous reviews for the Reading Challenge:

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