The Book Thief

Click "here" to link to this book on Amazon.

I had heard about this book and was glad when our local school librarian club member selected it.  I was surprised to find it in the Young Adult section of the library.  I think it was a little bit more mature than the Twilight series.  A lot of people think that series is too mature for teens.  Before I started reading the book, my dear daughter lost a long-time friend just before their college graduation.  When she spoke at the memorial she ended her tribute with a quote from this book, "I have hated the words, and I have loved them.  And I hope I have made them right."

On a scale of 1 - 5

Sex: 0
Religion: 1
Gruesome: 2
Suspense: 1
Morality:
3

Sex - None to speak of.  I worried for a bit about the potential of an inappropriate relationship between and adult male and a child but nothing ever developed in that area.

Religion - Religious persecution factors largely into the story but other than that I don't recall any church scenes or religious discussions.

Gruesome - In the beginning I was unsure whether it was a soul-stealer, death-eater, paddy wagon driver or someone else speaking as the narrator and going from death to death to death, trying to find beauty and peace in them.  There are also bloody incidents but nothing that turned my stomach like a couple of scenes in Doc did.

Suspense -   There was nothing that made me feel like I had to keep turning the pages.  Many times, the narrator even gave things away early, and then apologized to us for it.

Morality - The book is well balanced on the morality scale.  There are several instances of people doing the right thing, even if it meant physical punishment.  There are just as many incidents of stealing and bad behavior although, to be fair, some of the stealing is a result of hunger, not just boredom.

This book is quite popular at the library.  I was able to check it out but not renew it because other people had placed holds on it.  I could never get back through the hold line in time to finish reading the book, but I was able to get the Book on CD and load it onto my iPod so that I finished the last 60% of the book by audio.  I enjoyed the audio perhaps more than reading it for myself because the reader did a fantastic job with making different voices and German accents and pronouncing the German words.

Once I got past the frustration of figuring out who the narrator was, the only other frustrating thing was the blurry page numbers.  Like Doc has Latin, this book has German phrases.  I was glad to see I have remembered ein bischen more German than I thought I had!  Also like Doc, this book has the straightforward foreshadowing where the narrator just flat out tells you what will happen later.  I always think it is interesting how I don't recall ever seeing that technique before and here we see it two books in a row.

Zusak has a gift with words!  It's like reading poetry but without having to wonder what the author was thinking.  His words are as sooth as butter melting, with an occasional sizzle.  he often teases like the delicious smell of cookies baking but not being able to eat one.  he sees things in such a unique way and then miraculously puts words to it so we can see it too.  Imagine an uptight German woman who never smiles.  Surely you've seen one in your life, at least in a movie.  Zusak sees the rare smile as a bruise, "...the lady behind her, whose smile gave the appearance now of a bruise" and later, "The mayor's wife bruised herself again." (p. 137)

On page 175 is "A SMALL BUT NOTEWORTHY NOTE" about how, particularly in war, soldiers often think they are running towards the enemy when actually they are running towards death.  It reminded me of the war scenes in several novels by my favorite author, Diana Gabaldon.  In a novel narrated by death, you've got to figure that it's not going to be an and they all lived happily ever after ending.  The actual ending of the book was rather tragic, but it was softened by the Epilogue, which also ended in death but a lot more gently.

Sometimes when I'm reading a book that mentions other books I think that one day I'm going to go on a book odyssey and just choose my next title from whatever title is mentioned in the current book I'm reading.  (For a kid, John Sciezka's Time Warp Trio books would be great for that.)  After reading The Book Thief, I was curious about all the other books mentioned in the novel.  I searched for "The Shoulder Shrug", "The Dream Catcher", and "The Last Human Stranger" but they do not appear to exist in reality.


Discussion Questions

Question:  What is your favorite color of the day?  Is white a color?

Discuss:
"When it came down to it, one of them called the shots.
The other did what he was told.
The question is, what if the other is a lot more than one?" (p. 23)

Discuss:
"There were people of ever stature, but among them the poor were the most easily recognized.  The impoverished always try to keep moving, as if relocating might help.  They ignore the reality that a new version of the same old problem will be waiting at the end of the trip - the relative you cringe to kiss." (p. 25)

Question:  When Liesel was first brought to the Huberman's she refused to get out of the car.  Then she clung to the gate.  Kids often employ such tactics.  What makes this seem like a good idea?

Discuss:
"Like most misery, it started with apparent happiness." (p. 34)

Question:  Have you ever been afraid of a situation that turned out to be wonderful, like Liesel was afraid when the mayor's wife invited her into the library?

"They left without looking back.
     It tortured him.
     If only he'd turned for one last look at his family as he left the apartment.  Perhaps then the guilt would not have been so heavy.  No final goodbye.
     No final grip of the eyes.
     Nothing but goneness." (p. 193-194)
Question:  How important are goodbyes for you?  What is your goodbye style or preference?

Question:  The book arranges the words in a non-traditional manner, with lots of indents and skipped lines and bold insertions.   Does this change your feelings towards the book?

Question:  Does mama call Leisel "saumensch" out of spite or affection?

Question:  How did you feel when the mayor cancelled their laundry service?

Question:  Why is it so true that no one else can criticize our family?  (ref. end of Shoes / Whistler chapter)

Question:  Why did Rudy disqualify himself with two false starts in the last (100m) race?  Why did he leave the medals with Leisel?

Question:  Have you ever been confined to a small space during a scary situation?

Discuss:  Michael said he didn't care what the Catholics said about it, there must be a place in Heaven for people who have seen what he has.

Question:  The book closes with the revelation by the narrator that "Humans continue to haunt me."  Is this as true for living people as for death?

Theme Ideas

Use colorful decorations and serve a variety of colored foods since the book began and ended talking about colors.

Serve pea soup, like Mrs. Huberman always made.

Have a basket full of (12) apples like the first food Rudy and Leisel stole.

Serve ham and bread (rolls) like Rudy and Leisel got when they caused the boy to fall on his bike.
Comments