Thursday, March 19, 2009
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
The power of words - One of the main themes of this novel concerns the power of words, and how words can be used to achieve great good or great evil. It is about the ability of reading to soothe and teach, and it is about how words in the hands of a madman can create the worst sort of fear and genocide. Another theme treats the two faces of humanity, and that most of us have the capacity for both -- the beautiful and the ugly ways that people treat each other.
There is much to consider in this extraordinary fiction book that explores the Holocaust from the viewpoint of the various inhabitants of an imaginary town outside of Munich. As such, readers experience the world of Germany in the 1930s and 1940s through the lens of ordinary people - most of whom are not Jewish.
Liesel, a non-Jewish, illiterate, young girl, and her younger brother are sent to foster parents by her mother. One concludes that her mother will be taken away by the Nazis, suffering the same fate as her father. Aboard the train, the brother dies. Liesel's foster parents, the Hubermanns, live in the poorest neighborhood in town. Hans, is a wonderful parent and accordion player who teaches Liesel to read. Rosa, with her nasty, feisty temperament, reveals that she too has a heart. Characters include: the occasional narrator, Death; Rudy, Liesel's best friend; neighbors; local thieves; Max, the young Jewish man who seeks refuge with Hans; others.
The writing is excellent, and Zusak's words and images evoke the horror and challenges of the time. The Book Thief won the following awards:
WINNER 2007 - ALA Best Books for Young Adults
WINNER 2007 - Michael L. Printz Honor Book
WINNER 2006 - Kirkus Reviews Editor Choice Award
WINNER 2006 - School Library Journal Best Book of the Year