Publisher's Note:  

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. . . .

Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.

This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.

This book was sent to Compass Book Ratings for review by Knopf Books for Young Readers

The Book Thief

by Markus Zusak

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Overall Review:  

Markus Zusak's The Book Thief is an award-winning and phenomenal story set during World War II. With Death himself narrating, readers are introduced to Liesel Meminger, a girl lacking in physical stature, but not in bravery, loyalty and resilience. Besides including a sensational supporting cast of characters, Death meticulously describes Liesel's slim chance of survival during the frightening days of war-ravaged Germany. 


Zusak's spectacular way with words make this book a must-read. The text is rich with foreshadowing, symbolism and personification. The book has several dramatic and compelling scenes that left me reeling with emotion. Zusak's powerful words and message make The Book Thief a novel readers are unlikely to forget.   

Content Analysis:  

Profanity/Language: 60 religious exclamations; 33 mild obscenities; 8 religious profanities; 12 derogatory names; 15 scatological words; 9 anatomical terms. There are also 99 derogatory names and 10 anatomical terms in German.


Violence/Gore: A bully threatens a character; a second hand report indicates a city was bombed, resulting in causalties (two times); a brief description is given of Jewish prisoners being gassed in showers; a boy crushes his ankle; a character returns home with injuries from the war; a character hallucinates scenes of boxing and knocking out Hitler; a child is slapped by her father; a character slaps her teacher; a young character beats up another character (two times); a child is punched by a young adult; a character reads aloud a passage from her book, where the protagonist is a murderer and stabs a woman; a young character is whipped; a Jewish man is whipped by a guard. Non-detailed violent death occurs in the following incidents: a truck rolls, killing a passenger; a man hangs himself; a man is "shot to pieces" in the Great War; a pilot crashes and succumbs to his injuries; an entire street is bombed and destroyed, resulting in multiple character causalties. In a scene with blood and gore, a soldier loses his legs, and later life, on the battlefield.


Sex/Nudity: A child receives a physical examination while naked; a child is given a bath.

Mature Subject Matter:  

War, death, the Holocaust, stealing, social conflict, suicide, serious illness, friendship, family, love.

Alcohol / Drug Use:  

A main character smokes throughout the novel and on one occasion gets drunk at a bar. Some citizens are described as drunks. A child takes a sip of champagne. 

Reviewed By Rachel
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