The Book Thief


Title:  The Book Thief

Author: Markus Zusak

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf; Reprint edition 2007

ISBN: 9780375842207

About the author: from

At a young age, Zusak has already asserted himself as one of today’s most innovative and poetic novelists. With the publication of The Book Thief, he is now being dubbed a “literary phenomenon” by Australian and U.S. critics. Zusak is the award-winning author of four previous books: The Underdog, Fighting Ruben Wolfe, Getting the Girl, and I Am the Messenger, recipient of a 2006 Printz Honor. He lives in Sydney.


Liesel Meminger is a young german girl traveling to her new home. Liesel’s mother is giving her and her brother to a foster family where she might be cared for properly. On the train ride her brother dies, leaving Liesel alone at her new home with Rosa and Hans Hubermann. This is Hitler’s Germany and there is much to fear.

Critical Evaluation:

Books are all that Liesel Meminger has in life. As Liesel grows, so does her love for books. The story follows Liesel and her growth through the dark and bleak times of Hitler’s Germany. In spite of circumstances, the book is darkly humorous and moving.

Death is the narrator of the story. Suffering and death are always around, and Zusak deftly weaves Death the narrator with the other characters in the book.  Ironically, all know he’s there, but never see him.Told in a nonlinear fashion, parts of the story are given away early, but that is the point. The story flows beautifully, and we learn to care for our young protagonist Liesel. The Book Thief is written in a compelling style. Liesel’s voice is lyrical and engaging. As a character she is introspective and sympathetic.

This is Hitler’s Germany, and peace is not in the cards, or the colors, as Death sees things. There is no shortage of lives lost in this very scary time. As always, there is hope. At least that is what we want for Liesel Meminger.


Reader’s Annotation: To Liesel, reading is freedom. When the Nazis burn books, she takes a smoky one from the bottom of the pile.

Genre: historical fiction

Curriculum Ties: history- Holocaust

Booktalking Ideas: What books would you save from burning?  Why?

Reading Level: 14+

Interest Age: 14+

Challenge Issues:  violence, holocaust, racism

 Challenge Resources:

  • Library Selection Policy
  • Rationale explaining why the item was chosen for the collection
  • Active listening skills
  • Awards
  •  Reconsideration form (as a last resort)
  • National Council of Teachers of English “Right to Read”
  • Positive and negative reviews: expert, parent, student
  • ALA Strategies and Tips for Dealing with Challenges to Library Materials
  • ALA Bill of Rights on Intellectual Freedom
  • Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.
  • Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.

Why did you pick this for your collection?

  • Booklist Editors’ Choice – Books  for Youth – Older Readers Category: 2006
  • E.B. White Read-Aloud Awards: Middle Reader
  • Garden State Teen Book  Awards (New Jersey): Fiction (Grades 9-12)
  • Kathleen Mitchell Award (Australia)
  • National Jewish Book  Awards: Children’s and Young Adult Literature
  • Parents’ Choice Awards – Fiction: 2006
  • School Library Journal Best Books : 2006
  • Sydney Taylor Book  Awards: Teen Readers
  • USBBY Outstanding International Books  – Grades 9-12: 2007
  • YALSA Best Books  for Young Adults: 2007
  • YALSA Outstanding Books  for the College Bound – Literature and Language Arts: 2009
  • YALSA Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults: Book  to Movie: Ripped From the Pages (2015)
  • YALSA Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults: Death and Dying (2009)