by Dru Hunsaker
In an age where some young adult literature has begun to branch away from the shallow, trite writing of ages past, and thus become more appealing to a wider audience, The Book Thief is a novel that will move all who devour its pages. Artfully crafted by Markus Zusak, the narrator, Death itself, first encounters young Liesel Meminger when her younger brother dies on a train to Molching, following their mother’s decision to put the two up for adoption. As he collects the soul of her brother, Death is fascinated with the irrepressible spirit of the child as she discovers her first book and latches onto the safety offered in its pages, though she cannot read. When she meets her foster parents, Hans and Rosa Hubermann, she quickly becomes very close to them and her “Papa” teaches her to read the book that she stole, The Grave Digger’s Handbook.
Death keeps track of Liesel as she becomes enraptured with reading, taking books from the wife of the mayor, and forms a bond with Max Vandenburg, a Jewish man hiding in the Hubermann’s basement to escape the tyranny of Nazi Germany. When Death comes to collect Liesel’s soul at the end of her life, the story comes full circle and we are made to understand the Death is not an end, but a welcome embrace to the weak and the weary.
The Book Thief is not merely an interesting story; it is a compelling commentary on the compassion of many of the German people who, too, suffered at the hands of Adolf Hitler, the true meaning of family, and the power of books to change our hearts. In this story that elicits chills, one might find that it is a much needed reminder that the reprieve so often sought in the mindless world of television can only be found in the solace of words that envelope our hearts and minds. It is books that connect us to one another as they recount the stories of our flaws, hopes, and dreams. Books binds us in our mutual humanity.