Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Book Thief, Markus Zusak

Title:  The Book Thief
Author:  Markus Zukas
Publisher:  Alfred A Knopf
Year:  2007
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Themes:  War, Racism, The Holocaust
Age Levels:  9th Grade and Up

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak takes place during World War II, and tells the story of 10 year old Liesel.  Her mother is forced to place her children into foster care.  Liesel's brother dies on the train taking her to Munich, where she is given into the care of a couple on Himmler Street.  Through the tough love of her foster mother, and the sweet compassion of her foster father, she finds a way to cope with not only her brothers death but the quickly declining standard of living in Germany.  Things go along OK, until the dark night that a Jew shows up at their door looking for sanctuary.

Despite the tragedy and the devastation contained within the story, when I think of a word to describe this book I can only say beautiful.  This book is so heartbreakingly beautiful, I could almost weep just from the use of language.  But the story is so compelling that even if it weren't written so beautifully I would have had a hard time putting it down.  So often books about World War II focus solely on the fate of the Jews-and rightfully so.  There is nothing so important as ensuring that the world never experiences that level of genocide-or any genocide-again.  But the fact is that most of the German people were suffering as well, and this book shows so clearly how the poison of hatred and fear spreads, and how it takes an incredible strength not to give in to the despair.  Despite the constant threat of being found out, of starvation, of being killed by bombs, Liesel and her parents held on to their humanity and compassion.

Teacher Resources:
Lesson Index
Web English Teacher

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