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Book Review

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 sh…

The Book Thief

by Markus Zusak

Overall Book 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’spowerful words and message make The Book Thief a novel readers are unlikely to forget.   

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

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. 

Overall Book Rating

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About the Reviewer

My mother was the one who sparked my love of books. Long before school instruction, she sat me down and taught me to read. My childhood was filled with trips to the library and bookmobile to find great books. My first loves were The Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder and the Pippi Longstocking series by Astrid Lingren. Now as a mom and speech pathologist, I am constantly looking for good, clean books to use at home and in therapy. I enjoy reading many different genres, but my favorites are usually historical fiction. I married my best friend, the “boy next door”, and we have a beautiful little girl who we often find sprawled out on the floor, flipping through picture books. Together our family likes to swim, run and play tennis. Besides reading, I also love to bake, garden and travel.