The Book Thief
|The Book Thief|
1st Edition front cover
|Cover artist||Colin Anderson/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images|
|Publisher||Picador, Australia; Knopf, USA|
|2005 (Australia); 14 March 2006 (worldwide)|
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
|LC Class||PZ7.Z837 Boo 2007|
The Book Thief is a novel by Australian author Markus Zusak. Narrated by Death, the book is set in Nazi Germany, a place and time when the narrator notes he was extremely busy. It describes a young girl's relationship with her foster parents, the other residents of their neighborhood, and a young Jewish man who hides in her home during the escalation of World War II. First published in 2005, the book has won numerous awards and was listed on The New York Times Best Seller list for over 230 weeks.
- 1 Book summary
- 2 Characters
- 3 Recognition
- 4 Film
- 5 References
- 6 External links
Liesel Meminger is a girl who lives in Nazi Germany. The Nazis force Liesel's mother to give up her children, and her brother dies on the trip to deliver them to their foster parents. At his funeral, she picks up "The Gravedigger's Handbook". When she arrives at her new foster home, on Himmel (Heaven) Street in Molching, Germany, Liesel forms a fast relationship with her foster father, Hans Hubermann, which helps her adapt. Liesel, to begin with, has trouble speaking and doesn't know how to read. After she wets the bed, her adoptive father discovers "The Gravedigger's Handbook" and begins to teach her how to read. Liesel also makes friends with the children on Himmel Street, particularly Rudy Steiner, her neighbor. A young Jewish man and son of Hans' army buddy, Max Vandenberg, takes refuge in their home. When Max becomes sick living in their cold basement, Liesel takes to stealing books from the local Nazi administrator's home to read to him. Hans gets in trouble for helping a Jew, and Max decides to leave to protect the family. Hans is eventually sent to war. After breaking his leg, Hans comes back to a joyous reunion with his wife and Liesel. However, the entire street is bombed, with the only survivor being Liesel. Finally, Liesel is reunited with Max after the liberation. All of the events are narrated by Death.
The protagonist of the story. She is an adopted young girl on the verge of adolescence, with blonde hair that "was a close enough brand of German blonde" and dangerous brown eyes. She is fostered by the Hubermanns when her father "abandons" their family and her mother is forced to give her up as a foster child. Her brother Werner dies on the journey to the Hubermann household. She is very close to her foster father, Hans Hubermann, and has a rough but loving relationship with her foster mother, Rosa. She befriends Max, the Jew whom the Hubermanns are hiding, as well as the mayor's wife, who allows Liesel to read, borrow, and "steal" books from her home library. She also befriends the other children of Himmel Street, among them Rudy Steiner, who becomes her best friend. Despite her many refusals of Rudy's requests for a kiss, her love for him is clear. Liesel finally grants Rudy's much-awaited kiss as he lies dead among the ruins of Himmel Street. After the war, Liesel eventually marries, moves to Australia and starts a family. She dies in Sydney, having always shown a true love for books.
Hans Hubermann (Papa)
Liesel's foster father. He works as a painter and enjoys rolling and smoking cigarettes. He served in the German army during World War I. During that war, Hans became his company's only survivor when he was left behind because of a job, when they were sent on what became a suicide mission. In The Holocaust era, he does not agree with the Nazi party but is forced to join, and after being accepted into the Nazi party is drafted into the German army. He has silvery-grey eyes and is tall, although despite this he is described as being very capable of blending in with the crowd. He was taught the piano accordion by Max's father Erik Vandenburg, a friend from the army (who saved Hans' life), and he occasionally performs in pubs to make extra money. He becomes very close to Liesel, as he calms her after her nightmares of her brother's dying, and teaches her to read. Hans Hubermann is killed in the Himmel Street bombing.
Rosa Hubermann (Mama)
Liesel's sharp-tounged, often abrasive, foster mother. She is nearly as tall as Hans, with a displeased face, brown-grey tightly-cinched hair often tied up in a bun, and "chlorinated" eyes. To supplement the household income, she does washing and ironing for five of the wealthier households in Molching. However, as the war causes economic problems, she loses her jobs one by one, the last being at the Hermann household. She has a quick temper, dictates to the household, and is known for straightening out previous foster children; however, though she often swears at Liesel, she cares very much for her. She has two children of her own, Trudy and Hans Jr. She is killed in the Himmel Street bombing.
Liesel's neighbor and best friend. He is eight months older than Liesel, has bony legs, sharp teeth, blue eyes, lemon-colored hair and likes to mess with the ladies. Despite being the German ideal (blond hair and blue eyes), he does not support the Nazis. As part of a household with six children, Rudy is habitually hungry. He is known throughout the neighborhood due to the "Jesse Owens incident" in which he colored himself with coal one night and ran one hundred meters at the local sporting field. He is academically and athletically gifted, which attracts the attention of Nazi Party officials, who try to recruit him; when he declines, they take his father, Alex Steiner. He also gets into trouble at the Hitler Youth due to his smart mouth and rebellious nature, and their vindictive group leader. Rudy becomes Liesel's best friend, often accompanying her on her adventures and talking her through her problems. He also teases her, regularly (though always unsuccessfully) asking her for a kiss mostly after he has helped her to accomplish something - for instance when one of Liesel's books (and most prized possession) is thrown into a river, he rescues it. Rudy is killed in the Himmel Street bombing; Liesel finally grants him a kiss after his death and begs him to come back to her.
A Jewish fist-fighter who hides in the Hubermanns' basement. He is the son of a WWI German soldier who fought with Hans Hubermann. He has feather-like hair and swampy brown eyes. Max's father saved Hans' life in WWI. When visiting his widow, Hans gave her his address and told her if she needed anything to contact him. Years later, during the Nazis' reign of terror, Max's mother calls upon Hans for help. Max's friend travels to Himmel Street to ask Hans to shelter Max, and Hans agrees to do so. After a tortuous journey to the Hubermanns' residence, Max finally regains his health, and befriends Liesel due to their shared affinity for nightmares and words. He writes two books for her and presents her with a sketchbook that contains his life story. Max leaves the Hubermann's residence in 1942. The next time Liesel sees him, he is being escorted with other Jews to a concentration camp near Munich. Liesel joins the group of Jews to speak to him, but this ends with both Max and Liesel being whipped by a soldier. After this incident, Liesel tells Rudy how she and the Hubermanns sheltered Max in their basement. She shows him a page in Max's sketchbook with a drawing of Rudy wearing three medals. Max is revealed to have survived the concentration camp and in 1945 finds Liesel in Alex Steiner's shop.
Another child on Himmel Street. A hearing problem, due to being stranded in the snow, caused him to have multiple ear surgeries. One surgery caused nerve damage that makes him twitch. As a result, he is frequently teased by his classmates and later punished by the head of the Hitler Youth, when he is unable to obey commands promptly. Tommy is killed in the Himmel Street bombing.
The wife of the mayor of Molching. They had a son, Johannes Hermann, who was killed in Russia. Rosa and Liesel do the Hermanns' washing and ironing for a time; eventually the bad economy forces the Hermanns to discontinue the arrangement, in reaction to which Liesel causes a scene. Despite this, Ilsa allows Liesel to continue visiting and read books in the large library in her home. Ilsa takes Liesel into her home after Liesel survives the Himmel Street bombing.
A neighbor of the Hubermanns, whom Rosa initially hates because she always spits on the Hubermanns' door due to an old and now-baseless feud between the families. She eventually asks Liesel to read to her, stops her door-spitting, and pays Liesel for her service by giving her coffee ration to the Hubermanns. Of her two sons, Robert died on the battlefield, while his elder brother Michael committed suicide a few months later because of his guilt at "wanting to live". Frau Holtzapfel is killed in the Himmel Street bombing.
The narrator throughout the story, Death is sympathetic to humankind and dislikes all of the despair and destruction brought upon humans by War, contrary to the common assumption that Death and War are friends. He comments on the thoughts, morals, and actions of humanity throughout the story while keeping a close eye on Liesel, even though at the beginning of the story he states that it was stupid for him to follow her. He does not seem to have any control over life and death, and frequently calls upon God with, "I don't understand", and answers himself with, "But it's not your job to". Death says that he has a "circular" heartbeat, making him immortal, though he says that he looks like a human and acts like a human most of the time. He is not invincible. He is tired of his job and wants a vacation, but cannot take one because there would be nobody to replace him. While many people find Death devastating, he is surprisingly humorous.
- Hans (Father)
- Rosa (Mother)
- Liesel (Foster Daughter)
- Hans Jr. (Son)
- Trudy (Daughter)
- Alex (father)
- Barbara (mother)
- Kurt (son)
- Rudy (son)
- Anne-marie (daughter)
- Karin (daughter)
- Emma (daughter)
- Bettina (daughter)
- 2006: Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best Book (South East Asia & South Pacific)
- 2006: School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
- 2006: Daniel Elliott Peace Award
- 2006: Publishers Weekly Best Children Book of the Year
- 2006: Bulletin Blue Ribbon Book
- 2007: Michael L. Printz Honor Book The Printz award is given to the best book for teens, based only on the quality of the writing.
- 2007: Book Sense Book of the Year
Brian Percival has directed the film adaptation, which Michael Petroni scripted. The film was released on 8 November 2013. Much of the movie was filmed in Görlitz, Germany. The film features Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson portraying the Hubermanns, Ben Schnetzer as Max Vandenburg, Nico Liersch as Rudy Steiner, and French-Canadian actress Sophie Nélisse stars as Liesel Meminger. Noted film composer John Williams provided the music soundtrack.
- "The Book Thief". Transworld Publishers. Retrieved 5 January 2013.
- "Best Sellers: Children's Books - May 15, 2011". New York Times. 15 May 2011. Retrieved 6 May 2011.
- "2006 Blue Ribbons". The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books. Retrieved 6 January 2013.
- "Michael L. Printz Winners and Honor Books". American Library Association. Retrieved 5 January 2013.
- "'The Book Thief' sets November release date". Entertainment Weekly.
- Roxborough, Scott. "'The Book Thief' Begins Shooting in Germany". The Hollywood Reporter.
- "The Book Thief movie adaptation gets a director By Molly Driscoll". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 2 February 2012.
- The Book Thief on FantasticFiction.co.uk
- The Book Thief study guide, quotes, themes, literary devices, teacher resources
- Schaefer, Sandy. "'Downton Abbey' Director Hired For 'The Book Thief'". Screen Rant.