Sunday, January 3, 2010

Bibliophilic Book Challenge: The Book Thief

Though I'd planned on reading all nonfiction titles for the Bibliophilic Book Challenge, I found myself needing to reread The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and realized that this title fits this challenge perfectly. For this challenge, I need to read a certain number of books (I'll explain this later) that relate directly to reading or books. As for the number of books I'll read during this challenge, I can choose from the following levels:

  • Bookworm: Read three books
  • Litlover: Read six books
  • Bibliomaniac: Read twelve books

  • Now, I already know that I am a book lover, but am I a bibliomanic? I guess that this remains to be seen. If you're interested in joining this challenge, there's still time. In fact, you have until January 31, 2010.

    And, on to the book review.

    The Book Thief is the current title for a local and online book club I started with a middle school teacher this year. We started this club because we felt that there was a disconnect between the English departments in the middle and high schools in our district. What better way to bring English teachers together than over some great young adult lit? We decided to start the club this fall and we're now on our fourth title, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. We have about ten or eleven members who're participating in our monthly meetings and 110 online book clubbers. Pretty amazing.

    Again, on to the book review.

    I was excited to have this selection pulled out of the dish (for lack of a hat) at our November meeting. I had read this book once before, but in a bit of a hurry and it's not really a book that should be read in a hurry. I knew that I remember the basic plot and some of the scenes, but knew that I needed to reread in order to participate in our book club discussion. And, as a facilitator of this club, I should be participating in discussion!

    I out off reading this title for most of Christmas break, thinking that it would be too dark for me to go and have fun during reading breaks. I've found the opposite to be true. I am having a hard time putting it down and am not feeling depressed by its story, but uplifted. This is odd, because it is about WWII and the Holocaust, though not directly, and there's plenty of suffering and hunger and war going on. But, there's a huge amount of humanity and tenderness and care in this novel that I hadn't really sensed during that first rushed read.

    I am moved by the main character Liesel, and her foster family. I love that there is love in her home and that her foster parents genuinely care for her and for the Jewish man that's hiding in the basement. Not that there's not a whole ton of madness, too. There is. But there's also a deep humane sort of current running through this novel. It's inspiring.

    It's also about books. The main character is illiterate at the start of the novel, and therefore has a deep desire to learn to read. She is appreciative of language and books in a way that I have never seen. She is a book thief, but this is to her credit as a person and not to her detriment.

    I also love the way that the Jewish man, Max, who hides in the family's basement takes Hitler's Mein Kampf, which is filled with hate, and transforms it into stories of love and redemption. It's quite marvelous.

    If you have not yet read this book, or have only had a cursory reading, you may want to pick up a copy. It is long and it is about war, but it's also extremely moving and shows a side of humanity not often portrayed in war stories.

    1 comment:

    1. Great review. I love this challenge because I am discovering lots of new books -- new to me, at least.


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