The Book Thief By Markus Zusak

Morena Staley

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General Summary

In The Book Thief the author examines the importance of the impact of words on people and how Germans were also negatively effected by the Holocaust. The main character, Liesel Meminger, is an orphaned German girl who discovers a love of reading. With the help of her new Papa, she learns how and in doing so moves the people who live next to her, in her small town of Molching. She lives in the time of reign of Adolf Hitler, the Fuhrer. As she grows older, she comes to know the prejudices against the Jewish, as well as her own opinions on the matter, even whilst harboring a Jew. During her stay at Molching, many times does the war hit home hard, with parts of the town being destroyed by bombs, family being taken away to fight and not come back, as well as food and money shortages all around. This book makes it clear that words have power even during, maybe especially during, that dark time.
Things I learned about the Holocaust from this book:
  • That secret police would try to threaten families into giving prospective soldiers away to train in special camps for the war. In the book, the Steiner family is pressured by such a pair of policeman, asking to take Rudy, their son, away for one such a training camp. The adults, somewhat aware of what went on there, refused, and for that, Rudy's father was sent away to the war as punishment.
  • That the soldiers that rounded up Jews would walk them through the streets of the towns on their way to the concentration camps, letting the entire town stand on the street side and watch as they shambled on, stumbling. This is shown several times in the book, when Liesel's Papa hands a bread loaf to an old Jew man, and many times when Liesel searches for her lost Jew, Max, among the procession.
  • It validated that there were people that secretly took in Jews, because they did not agree with the times. Max is taken in by the Hubermanns, Liesel's new family, and stays hidden in their basement for a time.
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Qualities of the main character, Liesel Meminger:
  • Hardworking. "There were, of course, some prob;ems as well. A few times, Papa nearly yelled at her... Just when progress seemed to be flowing well, somehow things would become lodged" (The Book Thief, Markus Zusak).
  • Kindhearted. "Papa sat with me tonight. He brought the accordion down and sat close to where Max used to sit. I often look at his fingers and face when he plays. the accordion breathes. There are lines on his cheeks. They look drawn on, and for some reason, when I see them, I want to cry. It is not for any sadness or pride. I just like the way they move and change. Sometimes I think my papa is an accordion. When he looks at me and smiles and breathes, I hear the notes" (The Book Thief, Markus Zusak).
  • Curious. "She thought of her mother and repeated Rosa Hubermann's questions. Where was she? What had they done to her? And once an for all, who, in actual fact, were they?" (The Book Thief, Markus Zusak).

IP&T: Video Analysis of The Book Thief


I really liked this book. The way the author depicts the story is wonderfully written, and the messages inside it too. Liesel has major character growth throughout the book, as well as the other people she interacts with. I liked especially the how the story is told in the time of the holocaust, and how it's a sad but overall heart-full book, not a tragedy, as many stories set in that time are.

The narrator, Death, was probably the best to tell the story, as he was really the main character during the actual Holocaust, and it is fitting that he should tell one of the sides to that story that isn't entirely bad.


I would recommend this book to middle school ages and up. The reading material itself isn't so difficult to understand, and the concept is interesting enough to keep the attention of younger readers. Those that like a lovely, almost abstract writing style will find this book most enjoyable. The pace, word choice, and style come together to form a wonderful and heartfelt novel.

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