Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. The Book-to-Movie Now Available on Blu-ray and DVD.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak,
Kindle Edition--cover art only.
Book Review by:
Sharon Powers.

     The Book Thief was first published in 2005. And, for nearly four and one-half years it remained on The New York Times Best Seller List. I, too, like so many others, decided to read this book. I finished reading The Book Thief for the first time on 08-23-09. It was still wildly popular when I picked it up and still being read by many, many people. 

     The Book Thief is popular again because it comes to the big screen November 8, 2013. The resurgence in popularity, undoubtedly, is due to the fact that attention is being given to the feature film.

Surprisingly, the narrator
of the book is "Death,"
not (Liesel). Note: In the
book, in Death's Diary
he says he only wears a
hooded black robe and
does not carry a sickle or
a sythe. [Loc. 3889]

     As The Book Thief opens, Death (yes, the big "D"), introduces himself to the reader. As the narrator of the book, Death speaks briefly about his job and acknowledges that were he to take a break in his work, no one could replace him. So what he does is to make his "vacation" by deliberately choosing "distraction." Even so, Death tries not to look, not to see, not to "...witness the ones who are left behind..."--those souls who yet live and whom he does not take with him. But, inevitably, as Death puts it, "I still fail." Death tells us that he is about to tell us about one of those souls, "one of those perpetual survivors--an expert at being left behind." Death introduces us to a "left behind" girl, calling her only, "the book thief." He tells us that he saw her three times "in the flesh."

Death meets "the book thief" for the
second time when he takes the pilot
in the crashed airplane.
     He came to the railway station to take her little brother with him. But, Death admits, he had made "...the most elementary of mistakes...[he] became interested. In the girl." He allowed his curiosity to get the better of him and stayed as long as his schedule allowed him to stay to watch the girl. The second time Death saw "the book thief" he had come for a downed pilot. The Third time Death saw "the book thief," she was kneeling in the rubble of the town in which she had lived--she was clutching a book; after a while she moved, dropped the book and "howled." Then, Death says, "...the girl's most precious item was thrown aboard a garbage truck, at which point I was compelled. I climbed aboard and took it in my hand, not realizing that I would keep it and view it several thousand times over the years." I think it is at this point of the book, we already realize that Death is also a book thief.

Many years later Death comes for
"the book thief" and tells her that
he is haunted by humans.
     Liesel's story, after the railway station, finds her arriving at a small German town during World War II, where she takes up life with foster parents. She arrives having stolen her first book, The Gravedigger's Handbook. During the time with her foster parents she learns to read. Liesel acquires books and shares those precious books with some of her neighbors and with a young Jewish man, Max, whom her father hides in the basement to save from the German soldiers. Most of the people she knows are killed during the war and Max is caught and sent to a concentration camp. At the end of the war Max is released and again meets Liesel. Many, many years later, Death comes at last to "the book thief," and Death confesses that all those years ago he stole her book from the dump truck and that he has carried it with him since then. 

My favorite quote is about
Liesel's Papa after she
wakes up with bad
dreams--he tells her
to get back into bed...
then he would play the
accordion for her.
         My favorite quote, though, is quite probably one very few others would pick for a favorite quote. It takes place when Lisel wakes up screaming from a bad dream and Papa would come to be with her.

     I think that for Liesel her "Papa's" music becomes a different kind of "words" than those in Liesel's other books. The words given to her by her Papa are written on Liesel's heart. In those dark nights of nightmares, her Papa gave her courage, strength, a sense of safety, acceptance, and love. Ever after Papa's words live in her heart along with the music he has given her. Here's the quote:

     "A DEFINITION NOT FOUND IN THE DICTIONARY Not leaving: an act of trust and love, often deciphered by children...He came in every night and sat with her....Each morning, he the chair. [In the middle of the night Papa would play the accordian for her.] No one had ever given her music before. She would grin herself stupid, watching the lines drawing themselves down his face and the soft metal of his eyes--until the swearing arrived from the kitchen. 'STOPTHATNOISE, SAUKERL!' Papa would play a little longer" (Kindle Edition Location 435-442).

THE GRAVEDIGGER'S HANDBOOK and What I Think About The Book Thief:
    The black book, given to Liesel by Ilsa Hermann, was blank inside so Liesel could write her own story. She titled the book, "THE BOOK THIEF a small story." Liesel would sit and write while her Papa played the accordion (it had white teeth and black notes in between). One night Liesel wrote a passage in her book, my second favorite passage in The Book Thief:
                                           PAGE 42
Papa sat with me tonight. He brought the accordion down and sat close to where Max used to sit. I often look at his fingers and face when he plays. The accordion breathes. There are lines on his cheeks. They look drawn on, and for some reason, when I see them, I want to cry. It is not for any sadness or pride. I just like the way they move and change. Sometimes I think my papa is an accordion. When he looks at me and smiles and breathes, I hear the notes. [Kindle Ed. Loc. 6703]

What Death wanted to ask Liesel.
     And then, just pages later, Liesel wrote her last line in her book, "THE BOOK THIEF a small story." She tells us that she hated the words and loved them and that in their creation, she hoped she made them right. Then the bombing. Death came for everyone but Liesel. Death tells us that when he came for Rudy (Liesel's friend), Death had "one salty eye" and a "heavy, deathly heart," [Loc. 6755] and that Hans (Papa) went out like the breath of an accordion and that Rosa had a big heart.

     After many years and Liesel had grown into old age, Death finally came for her. He showed her the book he had stolen from the back of the dump truck and she asked him if he read it and if he could understood it. Death tells us that he wanted " ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant." But he didn't ask her. All he did was to turn to her and tell her the "only truth" he knew: "I am haunted by humans." [Loc. 6945]

The Gravedigger's Handbook.
     The key to understanding these interactions comes early on in the book. On her very first night with the Hubermanns, Liesel looks at THE GRAVEDIGGER'S HANDBOOK and thinks that she really didn't have any idea about what the book was saying. Then she hits upon it! She thinks, "[t]he point is, it didn't really matter what that book was about. It was what it meant that was more important." To Liesel, the meaning was clear. The Gravedigger's Handbook was the last time she saw her brother and the last time she saw her mother. [Loc. 460]

     Death, shows he understands the meaning of Liesel's little handwritten book, stolen by him and perused by him several thousand times, when he tells her he is haunted by humans. So, for Death, Liesel's little book, THE BOOK THIEF a small story, becomes his own metaphorical "Gravedigger's Handbook."

     Wow! What a beautiful, wonderful story! Would I recommend it? Yes, indeed. If you haven't read it yet, go get a copy and read it now. If you've already read it, reread it as a refresher before the movie release on November 8, 2013. Check out the trailer, just below.

     As I mentioned, above, I believe one reason for the resurgence of interest in the story of The Book Thief is that a feature film of the story will open at box offices on November 8, 2013. Geoffrey Rush has been cast as Hans Huberman (Papa), Emily Watson as Rosa Huberman (Mama), Ben Schnetzer will portray Max, Nico Liersch will play Rudy and Sophie Nelisse will ply the book thief, Liesel Meminger. Directing the movie is Brian Percival and the writers are Markus Zusak and Michael Petroni.

     In 2006, The Book Thief won the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book (South East Asia & South Pacific), the Horn Book Fanfare, the Kirkus Reviews Editor Choice Award, the School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, the Daniel Elliot Peace Award, the Publisher's Weekly Best Children Book of the Year, the Booklist Children Editors' Choice, and the Bulletin Blue Ribbon Book; in 2007, the ALA Best Books for Young Adults, the Michael L. Prinz Honor Book, and the Book Sense Book of the Year, and in 2009, the Pacific Northwest Young Readers Choice Master List. Additionally, the book appeared on The New York Times Best Seller List for nearly 4 1/2 years.

About This Book:
Pages: 562
ISBN: 0375831002
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
(December 18, 2007)
Sold by: Random House LLC
Language: English
Kindle: Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
Kindle X-Ray: Enabled
Kindle Lending: Enabled
My rating for this book: 4 1/2 stars out of five.


 Thank you for joining me this week as we looked at this wonderful book, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Join me next week for a new book review.

Until next time...
White Rose.
...many happy pages of reading.


______________________________________ - The Book Thief by Markus Zusak; - Death the narrator; - Death meets the book thief for the second time; - Haunted by humans; - Book Awards for The Book Thief; - My favorite quote;'s+handbook&espv=210&es_sm=122&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=X951Uq2xB9LRiAL1oIC4Bg&ved=0CAkQ_AUoAQ&biw=1337&bih=887#es_sm=122&espv=210&q=The+book+thief&tbm=isch&facrc=_&imgdii=h5rLPNOBA7GdlM%3A%3B9_y0_tnXG76AaM%3Bh5rLPNOBA7GdlM%3A& - What Death wanted to ask Liesel;'s+handbook&espv=210&es_sm=122&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=X951Uq2xB9LRiAL1oIC4Bg&ved=0CAkQ_AUoAQ&biw=1337&bih=887#facrc=_&imgdii=_& - The Gravedigger's Handbook Image; - The Book Thief, the movie information from IMDb; - White Rose.