Archive for ‘Best Books Ever’

January 18th, 2010

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak; Review

by Madeleine Rex

Title: The Book Thief

Author: Markus Zusak

Published: March 14, 2006 by Random House

Number of Pages: 560

Rating: 5/5


“… it was raining on Himmel Street when the world ended for Liesel Meminger.

The sky was dripping.

Like a tap that a child has tried its hardest to turn off but hasn’t quite managed.”


The Book Thief is undoubtedly my second favorite book of all time (if I combine the nine Anne of Green Gables books). When I finished it (in the middle of my Language Arts class), I set it down, stared at the cover for a moment, and turned back to the beginning. I then read it again. The book is phenomenal. It’s a masterpiece; a story of history, family, friendship, love, and disappointment. Most importantly, it’s a story of words, a story of a little girl who found solace in books during one of the hardest times a child could live through.

Last summer, at a Rex family reunion, I sat on a table, my aunts clustered around me, and we talked about books. I kind of stand out in my family. The Rex family isn’t small, but I’m probably the only one of the grandkids who would sit down there and just. Talk. About. Books. My aunt recommended The Book Thief. That was months ago, back in June, and I didn’t get around to checking the book out until I saw it on the return shelf at the school library. I looked at it contemplatively. I read it. I loved it. So, I read it again. I also bought my own beautiful hardcover copy. (When I got it in the mail, I found a heart-shaped sticky note, scribbled on it, and stuck it to the book. The sticky note read: “Here lies the second most beloved book on the planet.” Now, that note sits on my bookshelf beneath the book itself.)

The Book Thief helped me to gain an interest in World War II. I should have expected that I would be interested afterward, since books do that to me. Rilla of Ingleside (Anne of Green Gables #8) got me interested in World War I, Gone with the Wind in the Civil War. I suppose I just need to care about people going through those wars, or the problems they face as a result of said wars, to really care about the wars themselves.

Anyway, The Book Thief revolves around a girl by the name of Liesel Meminger. Death is the narrator (which is a brilliant idea by the way – and Zusak manages to give us little tastes of “Death” in the most fabulous way), and he began to take a special interest in Liesel and her story after he saw the death and burial of her little brother. He also ran into her on two other occasions.

At the beginning of the book, Liesel is prepubescent. She’s young, and her mom is in the process of handing her off to foster parents – Hans and Rosa Huberman. Needless to say, she is unhappy when she steps into their home, a little house on Himmel Street, just outside of Munich, Germany. She’s told to call them Papa and Mama. She has no trouble at all calling Hans “Papa” (he’s wonderful), and she eventually begins to consider Rosa as her “Mama”. Her story, though, begins before this – with the death of her six-year-old brother, and her first book theft. Liesel arrived on Himmel Street not alone, but with a book – stolen from a boy – called The Gravedigger’s Handbook. From that book, the Book Thief’s story sprouts.

I’m going to post an excerpt here from the book. Actually, it’s a quote by Death, and it’s part of what caught my eye in the beginning:

It’s just a small story really, about, among other things:
A girl
Some words
An accordionist
Some fanatical Germans
A Jewish fist fighter
 And quite a lot of thievery

That list, right there, is perfect. Those points make up The Book Thief’s moving tale.

The Book Thief is not an entirely happy story. It’s honest and good, though, and managed to make me love it. To make me feel happy because I was reading a story that touched me. A story that seemed to love its readers back – it gave us so much happiness amidst the sad and seemed so happy to have us reading its words.

You know how certain scenes you read can simply tear your heart out? Tear it out, but keep it pumping? Beating and harder than ever? The Book Thief had a priceless scene of that nature. A scene that made me cry, though it wasn’t just emotional in a sad sort of way – it was meaningful. If the characters’ emotions couldn’t make you burst into tears, the message easily could. I loved it so much, and my mind is locked on it now. Trust me – that scene alone is worth reading the book.

The Book Thief is a hunky book, but I never felt it was slow. I am, however, more tolerant than some people I know when it comes to pace. I was hooked. Entirely. I think I kept reading even at the “dullest” moments because I loved the characters enough to be interested in their lives. Not just the climactic or dramatic moments. I was interested in their work and school, and most importantly, I was interested in their everyday thoughts.

The format of the book is unlike any I’ve seen before, and I thought it was so darn cool**. This book is original and shows that Markus Zusak really, really knows how to write a book.  

I can easily say that this book deserves the 5/5 rating more than any other book I’ve reviewed on Wordbird – more than pretty much any other book I’ve read, actually. It punched me in the stomach, and all I could think about when it did was that I hoped it would leave a permanent bruise.

*Some time, I’m going to collect some favorite quotes from this book and post them.

**To see Part 1 of the Prologue, click. (There’s a link to Part 2 at the bottom of the linked page.)