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on January 23, 2017
I LOVED this book. We started listening to the audio version in the car before I bought the paperback. My son is an audio learner, so we are constantly looking for books to listen to. We had recently listened to another WW2 book told from a kid's perspective. This was recommended to us, but we were warned the content was much more mature than the first book, even though it is also focused on a "child". While that was true, it wasn't a bad thing. I really enjoyed the narrator for the audio book, and I am quite picky. I ended up buying the paperback because I couldn't stand to wait to see what happened since I only listened with my son in the car. I was enjoying it enough to think it was worth the purchase. I'm glad I bought it. It is "heavy" but I did fall in love with the characters and know I'll be revisiting it again and again. One thing that I found unique about this book was that it was told from the view of "death", or maybe a grim reaper...but it is not in any way fantasy. Looking back, I can't imagine it being told from any other perspective and I'm so glad the author seemed to realize that too.
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on November 18, 2014
The Book Thief
This is a beautifully balanced piece of storytelling by a young Australian writer: Marcus Zusak. The book is narrated by death himself. Death is rendered vividly. He is a lonely, haunted being who is drawn to children, who has had a lot of time to contemplate human nature and wonder about it. We are introduced to this narrator in the beginning and he is with us till the very end. It gives away the end and still wants you to keep reading on.
The narrative is easy flowing with glimpses of what is yet to come: sometimes misleading, sometimes all too true. We meet all shades of Germans, from truly committed Nazis to the likes of poor Hans Hubermann who hides a Jew in the basement of his very modest home. I was humbled by the realization that most of us are incapable of doing what noble souls Hans and Rosa do for saving the human race. This is what makes this novel truly remarkable.
The author says he was inspired by two real-life events related to him by his German parents: the bombing of Munich, and a teenage boy offering bread to an emaciated, withered Jew being marched through the streets. Both the boy and Jewish prisoner were whipped by a soldier while hapless crowd looked on! It is also the way in which Zusak combines such terrible events with truly believable characters and the details of everyday life in Nazi Germany. All this made The Book Thief so special for me.
In addition to the protagonist Liesel (the book thief of the title), there are some very important characters in the story. Those who particularly stood out for me are Rudy Steiner, a close friend of Liesel who is obsessed with the black athlete Jesse Owens. Ilsa Hermann, the mayor's wife, who has never recovered from the loss of her own son. Liesel's adoptive parents Hans and Rosa Hubermann and of course Max Vandenburg the Jew decorator whose father had saved Hans’ life during the first world war when they are both German soldiers. The growing relationships between Hubermanns and Liesel and, later, Liesel and Max Vandenburg are central to the plot. Max writes and illustrates a strangely beautiful short story for Liesel over whitewashed pages from a copy of Hitler's Mein Kampf (the original print can still be seen through the paint). The powerful short story and illustrations almost broke my heart.
Hans, who can’t read very well himself, teaches Liesel to read. Liesel is effectively an orphan. She never knew her father. Her mother disappears after delivering her to her new foster parents. Her younger brother died on the train to Molching where the foster parents live. Death first encounters nine-year-old Liesel when her brother dies. It (death) hangs around long enough to watch Liesel steal her first book - The Gravedigger's Handbook, left lying in the snow by her brother's grave. Death has in his possession (I have always considered death as ‘she’) the book Leisel wrote about 1939 to 1943. In a way, they are both book thieves. Liesel steals randomly at first, and later more methodically. But she's never greedy. Death pockets Liesel's notebook after she leaves it, forgotten in her grief, amongst the destruction that was once her street, her home, her mama and papa. Death carries the book with him.
As I went through the book I kept feeling how real Liesel was! She was a child living a child's life. A life that has chores, soccer in the street, stolen pleasures, school fights, sudden passions and a full heart! Around her bombs are dropped, maimed veterans hang themselves, bereaved parents move like ghosts, Gestapo take children away and the dirty skeletons of Jews are paraded through the town.
However, there are a number of things that prevent this book from being all-out depressing. It is very powerful from the beginning but not morbid. A lively humor peeks through the pages. (a comment about German’s loving pigs, the childish chats between Rudi and Liesel). Furthermore, the vivid descriptions as well as the richness of the characters lift your spirits up. In this balanced story, ordinary Germans - those with blond hair and blue eyes are as much at risk of losing their lives, or are being persecuted, as the Jews themselves. It made me cry.
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on June 25, 2014
This book made me feel empty in a way that only truly beautifully written books can. When I finished reading the last word on the last page of this book, I felt empty; there is a paradoxical mix of feeling incredibly saddened that the book is over but also completely satisfied because the ending was the best ending you could have ever hoped for and more. Together, those feelings left me feeling empty and breathless. It's amazing that words can be strung together on bound pages can make you feel so strongly, but that's what great books do. And this is, without a doubt, a truly great book.

I won't go over the plot because many reviewers have done so already, but I will tell you this: The Book Thief was one of the most beautifully written books I've ever read in my entire life. Death's point of view is hauntingly sophisticated. This is one of my favorite quotes, "A SMALL PIECE OF TRUTH: I do not carry a sickle or scythe. I only wear a hooded black robe when it's cold. And I don't have those skull-like facial features you seem to enjoy pinning on me from a distance. You want to know what I truly look like? I'll help you out. Find yourself a mirror while I continue.”

There are so many amazing layers to this book. I love the fact that it's a book about a book thief. I love how books are mile markers in her life, and how she herself can barely control the love and hate she feels for the power of words. I love the impact books have had on her life. The love that the characters have for Liesel is truly moving. The love that she has for them is heartbreaking in the most astounding way. This is a fictional book, but it's very much a true and honest look at humanity in its finest moments and its worst moments. It's as if Markus Zusak studied the human soul and was able to articulate its many range of feelings: love, grief, regret, relief, wonder, and everything in between.

This is a book that stays with you long after you are done with it. It took me ages to write this review because I wanted to do the book justice. I will end with another one of my favorite quotes from the book. “I have hated words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right.”
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on October 20, 2013
I just finished reading this book and I wanted to rush here to write down my thoughts but now I realize that there are too many to summarize in a simple book review.

Many have said this about "The Book Thief" but it is truly an endearing story. Throughout the entire book, I kept thinking to myself, how can the same species of human beings be so absolutely dreadfully evil and also be so strong, brave, hopeful, and loving?

The evil side of humanity was shown, obviously, in the power plays of Hitler shown not primarily through a Jew's point of view like a lot of Holocaust/WWII stories but from the point of view of a living-in-poverty German family who were also victimized by Hitler, obviously in a different way but stricken nonetheless.

The hopeful and loving side of humanity was shown not in the obvious ways. But in the way that Liesel and Rudy always stood by each other no matter what even while throwing insults at each other. In the way that Hans embraced a girl as his own daughter without question. In the way that the mayor's wife indirectly gave Liesel her most treasured possessions and, eventually, a safe place to grow up. In the way that a little German girl connected with the Jewish young man hiding in her basement and created a bond of souls that surpassed words (though ironically created by words themselves through books).

And although the subject of this book was very heavy and dark, there were moments that made me laugh. Not because the circumstances were funny, but because of the things the characters would say in such circumstances. For example, after Liesel and Rudy steal a plate of cookies, their most pressing thought is, "What are we going to do with the plate?"

But there are 2 lines in this book that are so profound and will stay with me forever. The first line serves as a wonderful example of how artfully Markus Zusak wrote this story. The book is narrated by death and at one point death says, "It kills me sometimes, how people die." What an interesting and ironic line. Even death itself can be shocked at how people die. I would like to think that if death was a personified being, he really would say something like that.

The second line is the last line of the book. We readers are concluded with death's last note, "I am haunted by humans." As this beautiful, tragic tale comes to an end, I too am haunted by humans--the characters of this story.

Read this book.
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on March 21, 2015
Outstanding and Haunting Story of a young girl in Nazi Germany. I won't discuss the content, only how the book is told from the point of view of Death. I enjoyed watching the author's video here on amazon. I read the book a few years ago and I kept the book. Most fiction books I donate to my library or turn them to a consignment store. As a WWII biographer, I have a comprehensive library of books that I won't give up - this book is one of them. In my travels in Germany, I've listened to many stories of German veterans and their families and friends. If you can even get people to talk that is. I don't insist, but the horror of war still lurks. The horror of destruction of all that one has built - safety in homes - safety in trusting one's police - trusting in one's government - this didn't exist in Nazi Germany. It was Fear, prevalent fear. An incredible book in a story that I'll never forget.
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on January 10, 2014
I blame THE BOOK THIEF for stalling my reading. After I finished, I just couldn’t get into anything else. Nothing had the passion, heart, perspective, and “umph” that THE BOOK THIEF has. (Thankfully, THE ART OF RACING THE RAIN got me back on track.)

There is no shortage of holocaust-themed books. Really, there’s no shortage of excellent holocaust-themed books (Anne Frank, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, The Pianist, Night, and Maus are just some of the amazing books on the subject). However, THE BOOK THIEF must be added to the list of greatness. This book provides a unique perspective by giving Death the role of narrator. Throughout the book, we are given the perspectives of Communists, children, Germans, and Jews. It makes it a well-rounded journey.

There will be tears, some sad, some happy.

I wanted to wait until I saw the movie to write this book review, but I still haven’t seen it yet. I heard it’s great, but just from what I’ve seen in the movie trailers, many key ingredients have been changed. Without giving away too many spoilers, the relationship between the young girl and young boy aren’t quite the same, mostly in regards to the knowledge exchanged between them.

PROS: amazing read—500 pages flew by
CONS: hard to enjoy other books after this one
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on May 15, 2017
This is a good story and one you seldom receive information about. The people who were involved in the Holocaust, not by choice but because of circumstance of their birth. They may not have agreed with the ruling party, but had little to no ability to oppose them without dire consequences and usually dealt more with day to day survival than politics. They may not have had conditions as bad as the concentration camps, but their lives were not easy, they had few rights if they did not belong to the party, free speech was non-existent and in the end they, too, paid the ultimate consequence.
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on May 6, 2014
After watching the movie, I hesitated in reading the book. The movie was great, but it was to me a different story. Zusak's characters were not black and white people, which I found interesting and as an adult I could understand both Liesl's POV and a grown up perspective. Why the movie chose to make some of the people seem more like the bad guys I don't understand. I was able to see many different types of people were not the devout Nazis they were supposed to be and Death's views on humanity instead of the whole right and wrong issues were both interesting sections to me. I wasn't prepared to feel compassion for anyone who was a Nazi, even if they were only a fictional character.

This isn't the first time I've read Death as a character and often I find Death is as involved with the humans in the story as I, the reader, am. I suppose it's a bit like bird watching, I enjoy all the birds and even though they squabble amongst themselves I am an outsider and therefore don't feel as passionately about what happens between them. I can appreciate each one and find beauty in all of them. Death is a lot like this in The Book Thief.

I wasn't quite sure about the ending of the book, Liesl's end of life left many questions for me. I tried to piece what I saw in the movie and match it up with the book, but am not sure if that's how Mr. Zusak saw it. This was a hundred times better than the movie and I loved the movie.

This book is appropriate for both older children and adults. I think children should discuss the book with an adult after they've read it, because the whole WWWI and WWWII topic is something that should be talked about frankly and openly.

Great job Markus Zusak!
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on April 27, 2017
I'll admit it, I saw the movie first. After seeing it I went straight to the library and borrowed the book. I have always been meaning to buy it, and when I saw this unusual cover art I knew that I had to have it.....the image of Liesel dancing with Death is a very powerful one. The book itself is a fast read, but there are times when you just have to stop for a minute and take it all in (good times and bad). It's heart-wrenching though, so although I don't read it often I do think that it is a very well-written novel, and it is one of my favorites.
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on December 17, 2016
Anyone who is truly interested in the life of a young girl during the Holocaust would love this book. The Book Thief is a work of fiction so it is not a true story but with how it is written you could believe it. From the first line I fell in love with this book, Liesel Meminger is such a brave and spirited little girl and you can see how she becomes a brave and spirited young lady. Overall, buy this book because it's worth it. There is some heartache in here but what would you expect. So I hope you choose this book and that you love it as much as I did.
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