Also titled Summer Reading – The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
I first became conscious of The Book Thief‘s existence in the last Border’s near me. Jenna and I had made the trek to St. Pete in effort to find a Paperchase journal suitable for holding the next year of my life and Border’s was the only place to purvey these particular journals. Alas, we trekked in vain and found, much to my dismay, that whomever is in charge of graphic design for Paperchase’s journals is now heavily influenced by 12 year olds and neon color combinations.
Anyway, Jenna said something about it supposedly being a good book. Then my friend The Scholastic Mind suggested it to me. I figured the fates were conspiring or something and added it to my Library Hold List. It joined the stack of books that went with me to vacation. Truth be told I actually finished The Book Thief back in Riverview (but it was Sunday night so it still counted as vacation). I looked at the first page on Amazon before I requested it at the library and was immediately hooked.
Here’s the opening:
First the colors.
Then the humans.
That’s usually how I see things.
Or at least, how I try.
***HERE IS A SMALL FACT ***
You are going to die.
I am in all truthfulness attempting to be cheerful about this whole topic, though most people find themselves hindered in believing me, no matter my protestations. Please, trust me. I most definitely can be cheerful. I can be amiable. Agreeable. Affable. And that’s only the A’s. Just don’t ask me to be nice. Nice has nothing to do with me.
***Reaction to the ***
Does this worry you?
I urge you–don’t be afraid.
I’m nothing if not fair.
-Markus Zusak, The Book Thief
That is the first page of this novel. If you’re anything like me your immediate reaction was something like, “What?” So opens a novel narrated by Death sometimes known as The Grim Reaper. And he’s an odd one. But it’s fascinating. Death is an unconventional storyteller, he gives away the end before the story has really gotten started, he bases a lot of action in colors and feelings; he tells the story in the way he would want to hear it.
And it is a hauntingly beautiful story. It’s about the things that make humans great, the capacity for love and caring, as well as the things that make men monsters. It’s a story of Holocaust Germany unlike any you’ve read or seen before because Death is unflinching in his narration. He has no side, he has no motive, he’s just tired.
Zusak employed possibly the most striking narrator I’ve ever read. He also wove a believably human story about children who grew up in Nazi Germany and were only vaguely aware of the atrocities around them. But I think my favorite element was the illustration of the book that Max (a Jew hiding in the basement) makes Liesel for her collection. In the middle of the book there are several pages devoted entirely to the recreation of Max’s book, written and illustrated by Max. Yeah, definitely my favourite part. There was so much effort and detail in that section.
Eventually I’ll talk more about what I learned from Mr. Zusak’s writing. But for now I think I’ll leave you with this tidbit of exciting information. I receive emails from Inkwood Books about upcoming readings and events. Last month there was a “Save the Date” section that informed me Markus Zusak would be speaking at Tampa Preparatory school October 13th at 7 pm. I plan on attending. I’m very excited. And if any of you want to join me, just let me know.
SIDENOTE: Yesterday the interwebs were telling me that it was Read a Book Day or something like that. I hope that you’ve had the opportunity to read a book. And if not make the time today.