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VINE VOICEon June 12, 2006
Liesel Meminger is a Book Thief, living with a foster family in Germany during World War Two. Torn from everything she's known, her foster father shows her the power of words as the two of them share late night reading sessions of The Grave Digger's Handbook. Her love of books ties her to others, including the mayor's wife and Max, the Jew the family hides in the basement.

My own words escape me as I try to recount the beauty of this book in a short review. Rarely have I read a book as moving, as profound, as this one. Narrated by Death, this story is one that crawls under your skin and reverberates your soul with its images of Nazi Germany, friendship, and loss. The images stirred through Death's telling are so vivid, so wonderful, so tragic. Zusak has a masterful command of language and I was astounded by the way his words brought Liesel and her world to life. We follow Liesel over the years as she learns the true meaning of family through her caring new Papa and her friendships with Max and Rudy, the boy next door who idolizes Jesse Owens.

Just a small list of images that will stay with me forever:

+Liesel reading to the neighbors sitting terrified in a basement waiting for the bombs to fall around them

+A snowball fight in a basement

+Mama arriving at school to "yell" at Liesel

+A boy with candlelit hair standing up to a Nazi Youth Leader

+Death gathering up the souls of children softly

+The story of a Word Shaker

+An accordian player accepting a cigarette as payment

There are not enough words within me to express the beauty of this book. It will move you to laughter and tears, often at the same time. This one is a keeper that I will revisit frequently in the future. It has changed my soul. Highly, highly, highly recommended.
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VINE VOICEon March 23, 2006
I am not going to tell the plot of this book yet again, Amazon and some other reviewers have done it quite well...I will tell you that this is an astounding book, a beautiful book, and a book that I know I will read again and again......

I read a lot, two to three books a week, my family makes fun that I "love" so many that I read...but in the past few years there have only been a handful of books that when I finish reading the book I sit and try to think of who I can send a copy to, who can I share this wonderful experience with. A book that when I finish, I want to go back to the beginning and start over.

I am a little sorry it is listed as a young adult book, I feel that if the bookstores put it in the young adult section, so many people will be missing out on a wonderful experience. Yet it is important that younger readers, high school readers, read this book too. When I was growing up, I remember reading Diary of Anne Frank, and the feelings I had when I read it...and understanding the importance of everyone reading that book. Well, this book is that important, this book is a must read.

I am going to go back and read this author's other book, I don't know how it can measure up to this one, but if it is half as good, I am in for a treat.
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on July 31, 2006
This book is beautiful.

Following on the heels of I AM THE MESSENGER, nominated for best young adult book at the 2006 L.A. Times Book Festival, Markus Zusak's THE BOOK THIEF is an astounding piece of literature. Originally published in Australia as mainstream fiction and arguably not young adult, the novel works surprisingly well both ways. Adults will relish the story's beauty and magnitude, and while the first third of the novel may be a tad too slow for teens, the persistent ones will connect with young Liesel's tragic experiences in Nazi Germany.

Zusak's novel, set in a small town outside Munich during World War II, chronicles the story of Liesel Meminger, a German girl taken into Hans Huberman's household as a foster child. As likeable as she is well-developed, it's amazing to watch a young girl like that remain so strong in the face of human tragedy, impossible hatred, and adolescent love.

The twist is that Death is the one telling Liesel's story. From the very beginning, he wants us to trust him. "I most definitely can be cheerful," he tells us. "I can be amiable. Agreeable. Affable. And that's only the A's. Just don't ask me to be nice. Nice has nothing to do with me." An interesting character, to say the least. But what does Death think about our wars? Our famines? Our day-to-day lives? We may not often think about such things, but he does. It's his job to see the world as it is. Infinite in color. And fear.

John Green, author of the award-winning LOOKING FOR ALASKA, said that this is the novel he wished he'd have written. I must wholeheartedly agree. While the story is painful and lovely, the images are fresh and lasting, the words, poetic and stirring. This story pays tribute to the simple power of words, to their ability to change our minds, destroy our lives, move our souls, recount our memories, and yes, heal our world.

Reviewed by Jonathan Stephens
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on August 5, 2006
The Book Thief is such a fabulous read...don't miss it! Markus Zusak paints vivid pictures with his words and you'll find yourself rereading parts over and over wondering: "Now how did he think of that?" I had to put this book down for a day or two because I didn't want to finish it...it was like saying goodbye to an old friend. The narrator is Death...now how intriguing is that? This is the most beautifully written book that I have ever read...trust me, you will feel the same way.
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on January 21, 2016
I am, of course, premature in writing this review, since I am only about 100 pages into my first reading of the paperback text. But already there is no question in my mind that the book deserves all the accolades it has already received since its first publication some years ago. My only excuse -- if it is that -- is that I just came to the book very recently (and, I'd like to say for the record, atone initiated a book discussion forum by the title of "The Book Thieves" [ahem..] before going to the Amazon entry for *The Book Thief* and finding out I'd been beaten to the punch a considerable time ago, oh well.) Among other things -- but i'm sure this has already also been noted ahead of me) -- there is a sardonic Death in charge throughout Ingmar Bregman's game-changing movie, "The Seventh Seal," one helluvah way to be introduced to Chaucer's "Knights' Tale" as a wet-behind-the-ears, just-off-the-boat Harvard junior English major, Fall of 1960. Brrrr.

The writing here is superb, the pace is spell-binding, and the cliff-hanging suspense at the ends of chapters is, well, suspenseful -- sorry -- and I know I'm far behind the rest of you. I *think* we're going to abandon our own free-standing discussion forum, and I'll send a note to that effect to my co-conspirator in that baby beginning. Thank you, Amazon, for putting all these resources at the tip of one's computer. "Oh Death was never enemy of ours/ We laughed with him, we leagued with him, old chum... .Knowing that better men would come, and greater wars,/
When each proud fighter brags he wars on Death for Life. / Not men, for flags." (Wilfred Owen).
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on January 5, 2008
The Book Thief is the story of Liesel Meminger, a nine-year-old illiterate girl who loses her family during World War II. Liesel's story is one of struggle, friendship, love, and courage. However, it's her biographer that makes the story unique. The Book Thief is narrated by Death himself.

Death is an uneasy narrator. He's a skittish personality who fears humans, perhaps as much as humans fear him. Death is an unlikely sympathetic character because he doesn't relish his work. He laughs at the human notion that he wears a cloak and carries a scythe. Instead, Death is an overworked laborer driven by a cruel boss--War. Throughout the story, Death interjects sparse nuggets of helpful information for the reader. He seems to be uneasy with his reading audience as much as he is with his characters.

In spite of his reluctance to get involved with humans, Death finds himself drawn into Liesel's story. The Nazi's imprisoned her father for being a communist and her mother gave her to foster parents before the Nazi's came for her as well. Liesel thus finds herself in the care of a rough but not unkind family, the Hubermans.

It's at the Hubermans that Liesel learns to read and discover the power of words. Hans Huberman becomes a grandfather figure to her and gives her 2 AM reading lessons when Liesel awakes from her nightly nightmares. Rosa is a gruff, cursing matron who eventually reveals a softer side. Liesel also meets some wonderful characters from around the neighborhood. There's Rudy, a young sprinter and fellow thief, who idolizes Jesse Owens. Rudy's obsession with the African-American sprinter doesn't win him favor with the Nazi Youth Party, but he is undeterred. There's also Max, a young Jew whom the Hubermans hide in their basement. Liesel makes fast friends with each of these youthful men and learns lessons about loyalty, friendship, and love.

In The Book Thief, Markus Zusak captures Liesel's childlike perspective showing that she is somehow able to hold onto while living on Himmel (Heaven) Street - until Allied bombers bring the weight of the war and death to her neighborhood. Zusak is generous with humor and tales of the heroes' thieving mischief. These elements keep the atrocities of Nazi Germany from overwhelming the reader.

The Book Thief ultimately is the story about the power of words. Words provide Liesel escape from her nightmares. Her relationship with Max centers on storytelling. Liesel also comes to the terrible realization that Hitler's Third Reich wasn't built with tanks, but first with words. Teen readers will leave this book with an acute understanding of the power of ideas.

It's hard to find flaws with the Book Thief. The book is dark and tragic. A story involving Nazi oppression narrated by Death seems like a hard sell to the average teen. However, Zusak writes about Liesel's exploits with a gentleness that softens the weight of the book. Parents might want to be aware that there a few curse words sprinkled in over the course of 550 pages. This reviewer doesn't see them as a reason to keep a mature teen from being exposed to the powerful message of the book.

The Book Thief is a worthwhile read. Consider giving this novel to your Senior High School student, and even discussing it together. There are conversations to be had about prejudice, courage, love, and the power of words
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VINE VOICEon July 17, 2008
My book club chose this as this month's selection and it's a good thing I read it this way because I hated the first 35 or so pages. The tempo was really odd and staccato -- kind of like listening to progressive jazz when you're used to rock or classical. The pacing was really strange. I probably wouldn't have finished it had it not been an assignment of sorts.

But oh am I glad I forced myself to keep reading because starting around page 38 things just got magical. This book, about what one little girl does to get through life in WW2-era Germany is heartbreaking and beautiful but still manages to be funny and surprisingly light. Aside from reminding us that there were good people living in Germany during the war, what this book is really about is appreciating the little, everday things and the people we know, flaws and all. I fell in love with the characters, each of whom was well developed and felt like family by the time the book ended. I won't go through them, enough other people already have, but I wanted to weigh in on the 5-star bandwagon. The book is that good. Yes, death ultimately triumphs over all, but what this novel really does is celebrate life.

It's been a very long time since I read a book that moved me this much or had such an impact. I actually think it might be a bit too much for adolescent readers, but as an adult I found this thoroughly delightful.
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on April 20, 2013
Even though this book was released a few years back, many people recently recommended it and noted that it was one of their favorite books they'd read in awhile. While I liked the story, I didn't feel nearly as passionate about it as the people who had mentioned it to me did (or most of Amazon's reviewers, for that matter).

I certainly appreciate the premise that books can sometimes be saviors and loved the "feel good" nature of Leisel sharing her love of books with other characters (particularly her neighbors as they hid in the bomb shelters).

However, I think the book's structure was a detriment to Leisel's story. It begins with a huge section of the narrator's thoughts and him/her telling the readers about the three times he'd seen "the book thief" (i.e. Leisel). As I was reading it, it took me quite awhile to figure out who in the world the narrator was and, when I did, I was just perplexed. Why is the Angel of Death (or something like that...he/she is never explicitly mentioned by name) the narrator?? It just never made sense to me...even after I'd finished the book. I hated it so much that I thought if things didn't change fast, then I wasn't going to be able to keep reading.

Things got better when we got into Leisel's story, but the constant return (at the beginning of each "section" and in asides throughout the book) of the Angel narrator pulled me out of the story and just plain drove me nuts. Had the story of Leisel and her world been told in a straightforward way, I think I would have liked the book more, though I still doubt I would have loved it as much as others did.

For more reviews, check out my blog, Sarah's Book Shelves.
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VINE VOICEon June 6, 2006
The book, which I can't even remember where I read the original raves about it, should be required reading for every school in the country. As a knock your socks off companion piece to 'The Diary of Anne Frank', '...Thief' captures the German side of the war through the story of a young girl being raised by foster parents who end up hiding a Jewish man in their basement. The catch, or the device if you will, is that the compelling, and nearly not depressing (considering the subject) story is told by death himself. This is the book to read in those book clubs after you've all been looking for something like 'The Kite Runner'. It's human, personal, and wonderfully written, and hopefully won't get lost on the shelves of young adult fiction. This is something everyone should be reading.
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on June 26, 2015
Just finished reviewing this and suddenly my review disappeared! Briefly, this is a book that was not as good as the movie. I was influenced too, by the fact that I had just finished Anthony Doerr's "All The Light we Cannot See" a true classic covering the same historical period of WW2.
I had also not realized that it was written for "Young Readers" which may have accounted for its writing style. a style that I found simplistic and un subtle. There were lovely parts to be sure, but all in all I found the format of using Death as a narrator, irritating and at times trite.
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