The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

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The first time I read The Book Thief was when the book was given to me by a family friend years ago. The second time was for school, to analyze it in English class. The third, and so far last time, was a few weeks ago. Every time I have read it, it has always been very enjoyable.

The novel takes place in Germany during the Second World War, a time of great tragedies and massive casualties for both soldiers on the battlefield and civilians at home. That tone is accentuated by the choice of the author Markus Zusak to have the narrator be the personification of Death himself. Death is not merely cold and unforgiving as society often perceives him. His character is far more solemn and sympathetic to the struggles of the characters.

And who are the characters? Well first there is the main one: Liesel Meminger, a young girl who is adopted by foster parents Hans and Rosa Hubermann. There is also Max Vandenburg, a Jew who hides in the Hubermann household, and several other more minor but no less interesting characters. 

Zusak does an excellent job of developing these characters and making the reader develop an emotional connection with them. Even Rosa Hubermann, who often seems rough and abrasive at the beginning, grows on the reader as the book goes on. That emotional connection makes all of the struggles and tragedies that afflict the characters throughout the book all the more heartbreaking.

Along with the theme of mortality and struggle is the theme of reading. Throughout these hard times, Liesel often finds an escape by reading several books. Liesel uses reading to connect with the ailing Max Vandenburg. The Nazis, being the antagonists of the book, often burn books that question their regime. The theme of reading contrasts sharply with the theme of mortality. Reading offers hope to the main characters while they deal with the trials and tribulations they are faced with.

And how relevant is that theme? The past year has been a struggle for all of us, and we often found reading as an escape from the problems we dealt with. During the beginning of the pandemic, when it felt like society was shutting down, we used reading to give us a glimmer of hope and as an escape from the stress of world events, just as how Liesel uses reading in the book.

Thus, The Book Thief, a book written a decade and a half ago remains relevant to the struggles we face today, and remains one of my favorite books of all time.

-Adam A.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

I am the Messenger by Marcus Zusak

iamthemessenger_markuszusakHave any of you read The Book Thief? Marcus Zusak’s novel about World War II? I recently found that Zusak had written another novel, by the name of I am the Messenger. Having enjoyed The Book Thief, I decided to try this new book out.

I was not disappointed.

This novel follows Ed Kennedy and the mysterious cards he receives in the mail. Sent all over town to help various people, Ed must help each person with whatever is ailing them, whether it be loneliness, preaching to an empty church, sibling rivalries, etc. The list goes on and on.

What I liked best about this book was the end, of course. On the surface, this is a very simple novel, with each new card like its own short story. Readers get to know Ed and his town in more detail. But not until the end does there really seem to be a point to the whole story. I was not even reading this book for an English class, but for once, the theme of a novel was staring me in the face.

I think this novel would make a great movie. There are so many scenes that I would just love to see in a movie. I do not normally like the movies better than their novels, but I feel that in this case I just might.

I would recommend this book for anyone over 13. However, I would caution that some scenes in the book are not ‘G’ rated because of their mature content. I feel that The Book Thief was a better novel, but I am the Messenger gives the reader a lot of food for thought about the type of life one chooses to lead.

– Leila S., 9th Grade

I Am the Messenger is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library

Book Review: I Am The Messenger by Markus Zusak

messengerEd Kennedy is about as low as they go… he is a drinking, smoking, underage cabdriver and the only thing he cares about in his mundane world is his dog named The Doorman. And one more thing… he LIVES for card games and gambling. However, this all changes in one day when he accidentally stops a bank robbery and receives a playing card in the mail with three addresses and three times on them. As he gets more playing cards, more mysteries are revealed about the sender, pulling Ed into a miraculous journey that solves other people’s and his own problems.

World renowned author of The Book Thief, Markus Zusak does it again. He works his best magic yet in bringing this novel to life in the mind of the reader. He expertly hooks and reels you into his story with gripping suspense and mystery that will keep anyone on the edge of their seats. It is quite descriptive, using words that you don’t usually hear in the American language such as “mate” and “arse” and “bloke.” Since the author resides in Australia, he seems to bring his culture to the conversations between his characters. This novel is funny and thought-provoking, and I think you will enjoy it as much as I did.

-Evan G., 6th grade