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Review Of "The Book Thief"

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Review of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

It seems sometimes like the market for young adult literature is written down to the readers, almost in a condescending manner. That is why a book like The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is so refreshing in this sea of cookie cutter romances and fantasies. While classified as a young adult novel, it deals with very serious themes. The book’s cover comes printed with this label: “It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.” It is a dark allusion to what is to come. But Zusak makes this story more accessible to the audience he is writing to and does this by creating identifiable characters, by bringing humor into this gloomy subject and by using a unique narrative to keep the reader enthralled.

Zusak, in this book, creates a very identifiable and unique protagonist and then surrounds her with equally unique and engaging characters. The protagonist is Liesel Meminger who is only nine years old when she is taken to live with the Hubermanns, a foster family, in Molching, Germany in the late 1930s. She arrives with few possessions, but among them is The Grave Diggers’ Handbook, a book she stole from her brother’s burial place. During the years that Liesel lives with the Hubermanns, Hitler becomes more powerful, and life on their little street becomes more fearful, and Liesel becomes a full-fledged book thief. She rescues books from Nazi book-burnings and steals from the library of the mayor. She steals, not because she is a kleptomaniac, but she steals books that mark important moments in her life. “The point is, it didn’t really matter what the book was about. It was what it meant that was more important. THE BOOK’S MEANING: 1) The last time she saw her brother. 2) The last time she saw her mother.” Liesel is illiterate when she steals her first book, but Hans Hubermann, her foster father, uses these prized books to teach her to read. Hans is a passionate, caring man who earns his living as a house painter by day and an accordion player by night. Liesel believes his eyes show kindness, and is closer to him from the beginning than to her foster mother. He is one of a few in their village who is not a registered member of the Nazi party, which comes to have serious repercussions on the family as the book progresses. Rosa Hubermann is a stern, strong woman who looks like a “wardrobe with a coat thrown over it” and would be “cute,” but appears perpetually annoyed. She peppers her language with epithets like “Saumensch” and “Saukerl” and “Arschloch”. “Sau” refers to “pig” and mensch is girl and kerl is man, arschloch sounds pretty close to its English equivalent. From the beginning Liesel is “saumensch,” which at first refers to Rosa’s annoyance at taking this girl in, even though it does mean more money for the family. But by the end, it has become a term of true endearment. Liesel’s best friend in the village is a little boy named Rudy, “the boy next door who was obsessed with the black American athlete Jesse Owens.” Rudy is in love with Liesel and always pesters her for a kiss, which he does finally receive, after some pretty serious turns in the story. He is a simple, almost naÐ"Їve boy, and would do almost anything for her, including jumping into a nearly freezing river to save one of Liesel’s books. There are others filling out the surrounding, like Tommy MÐ"јller, a kid whose chronic ear infections had led to several operations and a tendency to twitch, and the man primarily known as Pfiffikus whose vulgarity made Rosa look like a wordsmith and a saint.

To compliment these unique, engaging characters placed in this grim period in history, Zusak, while not sugarcoating anything, makes this ostensibly gloomy subject palatable by using grim, dark humor. The bickering between the Hubermanns has a lighter tone to it that makes the love between the two apparent. While looking for help at school, Liesel comes to he foster parents for help, leading to this exchange: “вЂ?Don’t ask him for help,’

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