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December 19, 2010

The Book Thief

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The Book Thief by Markus Zusak: Book Cover

The Book Thief

Author: Markus Zusak

Page Length: 550

Reading Level: 4.0

Genre: Historical Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Liesel Meminger hasn’t had an easy childhood. Her mother, faced with nothing to feed her children, had to send them away to foster parents in Germany. Liesel has lived in the shadows of talk about her father being a communist and she watches her sweet, dear baby brother die right in front of her. Her foster mother is harsh and calls her names; yet, there is love on Himmel Street. Her foster father nurtures her and teaches her to read. She becomes great friends with Rudy and embarks on many adventures with him. Liesel loves books and finds great comfort in them. But Liesel is a German, a member of Hitler Youth, and a great war is raging. Even her little corner of Himmel Street cannot escape the results of Hitler’s actions, and death is always watching and waiting.

REVIEW: One excellent teaching point from this book is “voice” in the form of the unusual narrator of the story and the perspective that death brings to it (a great example of that compositional risk aspect of writing needed to achieve a 4 on the TAKS test). Another great teaching point is the humanity of the people and even the “enemy” during war in the book. The power of love and friendship are notable points too.

I did not find the beginning of the book very engaging, but by the second half the story seemed more interesting and easier to follow. Even the small words in another language make fluency more difficult. I would not use this book as a classroom read and would not recommend it to struggling readers. I read in one of the reviews that in his home country this is considered an adult book.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: comparing text to self, compare and contrast, sequence of events, historical context, compositional risk – narrator

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: treatment of Jews, bullying, death in bombing, death of a sibling, separation from a parent

RELATED BOOKS: Four Perfect Pebbles, The Diary of Anne Frank, books by Zusak: Fighting Ruben Wolf, Getting the Girl, The Underdog, I Am the Messenger

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: The Diary of Anne Frank, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2009), Schindler’s List

RELATED WEBSITES: (awesome video intro to the book) (Zusak interview)

REVIEWED BY:  Dayna Taylor


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