This module was over historical fiction, which I couldn’t imagine enjoying, but I loved The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.
Liesel Meminger is a young, orphaned girl in Nazi Germany living with foster parents. The story of her life is told in a non-linear fashion from the point of view of Death. Liesel’s brother dies on a train ride in the beginning and this is Death’s first encounter with the book thief. She is so called that because she steals several books throughout the story. Death visits her a few more times as World War II comes crashing around her. During this time she encounters a German boy who thinks he’s Jessie Owens, a new Papa that plays the accordion, a new Mama that has a face like cardboard, a Jew they keep in the basement, and many Gestapo monsters.
Wow. I mean, wow! This book is great and very accurate in terms of the history of the time. The voice of Death is reminiscent of Terry Pratchett and the writing style of this book was beautiful. One line that I liked was something like: “Trees, like empty hat racks, reached into the sky.” That kind of language was all throughout the book. Liesel is a complex and deep character that felt very true to a young woman in a tough situation. My favorite character was Hans Huberman, her Papa. He is a truly great person, but he has his flaws. He was a very powerful character.
“Zusak not only creates a mesmerizing and original story but also writes with poetic syntax, causing readers to deliberate over phrases and lines, even as the action impels them forward” (Goldsmith 2006).
The poetry of the language is what I think really makes this book stand out among other historical fictions of its kind.
This would be great to pair with history lessons on World War II. It makes the time period come alive. For library use, it could be a part of a World War II book list. In this list I would also include books like The Rape of Nanking : the forgotten holocaust of World War II, The Hitler Youth, Devil’s Arithmetic and Flygirl. It think that this kind of book list would open up the study of World War II to include a more diverse group of topics.
Goldsmith, F. (March 2006). Book Pick – The Book Thief. School Library Journal Online. Retrieved from http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/article/CA6315064.html
Zusak, M. (2006). The Book Thief. New York: Knopf.