Posted by: michelle @ books my kids read | December 4, 2009

book reviews

I love books. I’ve been trying to write reviews to books that I read, but I am constantly wondering, what makes a good book review? I am not a fan of reading the review sections of the newspaper, but I do like to read other people’s reviews on goodreads.com. I want to know why people liked a book or didn’t like a book. I want advance warning when a book is fabulous but the first 50 pages suck.  I love getting recommendations from friends and have finally found book clubs that I enjoy (there was one I was in that was heinously bad). I love to share my love of reading, a passion that my geeky 2 year old already has succumbed to.

So pardon me for my book reviews, but they are a work in progress as I try to figure out the best way to write them.

The Book Thief The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I first read this book when it came out in 2006. It had been a gift from my husband and I knew nothing of what it was about. I quickly came to understand that this is one of those books that everyone should read, especially anyone who had been touched by the power of books.

As the narrator explains in the beginning, this is a small story “about, among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist fighter and quite a lot of thievery.” The girl is Liesel Memminger who is 9 years old when we first meet her on a train to Munich to be delivered into the hands of foster parents by her mother. She is the protagonist of this story, which is interestingly narrated by death. Death is not supposed to get attached to living people, but something about Liesel captures his attention early on and he hovers over her life throughout the years. The story begins in 1939 so WWII is an underlying character in the story as well.

Liesel first steals a book at the grave of her younger brother, who died en route to Munich. The book she steals is The Grave Diggers Handbook, but she doesn’t know this as she cannot read. But words are a huge part of who Liesel is to become and this book is the beginning, her entry into the meaning and power of words. Her foster father, Hans, finds this book later in the story and so begins her reading lessons.

Throughout the twists and turns of this elegant book, Liesel learns about how powerful words are. She continues to steal books, although there is a long break between the first book and the second, and they feed her soul. When her foster family hides a Jewish man in the basement, she begins to learn about a different facet to the power of words – she sees how writing words down can bring joy to people and from one special book, she understands how words can move people to do things. Since Hitler is also a fringe character in this book, towards the end Liesel makes a powerful statement about words –

“Why did they have to exist? Without them, there wouldn’t be any of this. Without words, the Fuhrer was nothing….What good are words.” (p. 521)

In this statement she acknowledges how the Fuhrer convinced people to believe in his vision with words. But she unknowingly also makes a statement about the power that we all hold with our own words. In the end, she writes her own story and it saves her life.

This is one of the truly special books of our time. It is a story of Nazi Germany from a non-Jewish perspective. It is a story showing how WWII impacted everyone – the fear in people’s hearts, the hatred, the good deeds, the heroes, the death. Although this is published as a YA book, it is a book for everyone.

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