The Book Thief
|The Book Thief - By Markus Zusak|
1st Edition front cover
|Cover artist||Colin Anderson/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images|
|Publisher||Picador, Australia; Knopf, USA|
|Publication date||14 March 2006|
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
|LC Classification||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 Jewish fist-fighter 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 The New York Times Best Seller list for over 230 weeks.
- 1 Book summary
- 2 Characters
- 3 Awards
- 4 Film
- 5 References
- 6 External links
Liesel is on the train, on her way to be fostered when her brother dies. At his funeral, she picks up a book and keeps it to remind her of him. However, she can't read. When she arrives at her foster home, her papa (Hans Hubermann) teaches her how. At a Nazi book burning ceremony, an officer gives a speech about the importance of cleansing of the German society from "immoral" and "indecent" thoughts through burning books, which provokes Liesel. After the book burning ceremony, Liesel hides a book that survived the fire and takes it home. She is seen by Ilsa Hermann, the mayor's wife and mama's (Rosa Hubermann) customer. When Liesel is at the mayor's to drop the laundry, Ilsa shares her magnificent library and its books with her. The mayor, a party member, catches Liesel and Ilsa reading book together and immediately discharges Liesel. This forces her to start "borrowing" books from Ilsa's library, hence earning the nickname "The Book Thief".
But things get dicey when they, along with hot tempered Rosa Hubermann, begin to hide a Jew named Max in the basement. As a security measure and to save his life, Max is not allowed to leave the basement. Max and Liesel start bonding as they read and share stories together. But he is forced to leave after an incident in which Hans defends a Jewish local against a Nazi officer.
Liesel Meminger (born February 1929)
The protagonist of the story. She is an adopted girl on the verge of adolescence, with blonde hair that "was a close enough brand of German blonde" and dangerous dark brown eyes. She is fostered by the Hubermanns when her father "abandons" their family and her mother is forced to give her up for adoption. 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. Liesel eventually marries, moves to Australia, and has several children and grandchildren. Liesel then dies in Sydney.
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. However, he has a falling-out with his actual son, Hans Jr., because of his son's support of the Nazis. Hans Hubermann is killed in the Himmel Street bombing.
Rosa Hubermann Liesel's foul-mouthed, often aggravating, foster mother. She is short, with a wrinkled face, brown-grey "elastic" 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, rules the household with an iron fist, 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.
Rudy Steiner (born June 1928)
Liesel's neighbor. He is eight months older than Liesel, has bony legs, sharp teeth, blue eyes, lemon-colored hair and like to mess with 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 painted himself with charcoal 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 when he soon dies along with Liesel's parents.
Max Vandenburg (born 1916)
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.
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)
- Annemarie (daughter)
- Karin (daughter)
- Emma (daughter)
- Bettina (daughter)
- 2006: Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book (South East Asia & South Pacific)
- 2006: Horn Book Fanfare
- 2006: Kirkus Reviews Editor Choice Award
- 2006: School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
- 2006: Daniel Elliott Peace Award
- 2006: Publishers Weekly Best Children Book of the Year
- 2006: Booklist Children Editors' Choice
- 2006: Bulletin Blue Ribbon Book 
- 2007: ALA Best Books for Young Adults
- 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
- 2009: Pacific Northwest Young Readers Choice Master List
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 - Praise and Awards". Random House, Inc.
- "'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.