Week 3, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

WEEK 3, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Zusak, M. (2006). The book thief [CD]. Mexico: Random House.

This historically rooted book dives into Nazi Germany, only this time exploring the life of a foster girl names Liesel Meminger. The book explores the ups and downs of a girl living with a family with members unsupportive of Adolf Hitler yet just trying to get by unnoticed. Things change when a Jewish friend of Liesel’s foster father comes to stay, and hide, during the WWII events. As if the setting isn’t downcast enough, the story is actually narrated by Death itself. The readers gets to hear and experience how Death sees the events occurring and also has to opportunity to observe the Book Thief in action.

Keywords: all about books; Nazis; death; WWII; history

What I Think:

One positive aspect of this book is how different it is from other books. This book is told from the perspective of death. In the beginning before part I, it takes the reader some time to figure out exactly who is telling the story because the narrator begins by describing colors. Eventually, the reader makes an inference based on the clues in the text and discovers that it is indeed Death who is telling the story. For example, in the prologue the narrator says, “If suffices to say that at some point in time, I will be standing over you, as genially as possible. Your soul will be in my arms. A color will be perched on my shoulder. I will carry you gently away” (p. 10). This clue leads us to believe that the narrator takes souls off the Earth. This can be confirmed when the narrator makes the joking comment about not being the grim reaper but often being called that name and playing that role. For this reason, this book would be great to actually use with the students in a classroom, even if it wasn’t the entire book. Although reading the entire book would be valuable for the embedded history, I would focus on the idea of telling a story from different perspectives and how the viewpoint can truly effect a story.

What the Experts Say:

The book concerns a young German girl, the titular thief, whose family hides a Jew in their house during World War II. The narrator is Death (yes, that Death), and even though he tells you in advance who won’t survive the war, it’s still a complete punch in the gut when it happens.

Lurye, S. (2012, Sep 13). The book thief. Reader

Classroom Recommendations:

This book is obviously a book that should be tied to history. In the classroom, I would connect the book to the events happening in WWII at the time. For example, the book talks about The Night of Broken Glass and how Liesel experienced this huge event. It is important to investigate this event and others in the book so that the students are familiar with the setting of Nazi Germany and the context of WWII.

Secondly, I would use this book in the classroom to learn about viewpoints and perspectives. One interesting thing about this book is that it is told from the viewpoint of Death. I would be curious to find out from my students how this book might change if it was told from different viewpoints, like Adolf Hitler, Rudy or even Max Vandenberg.

Students could also participate in an activity of actually re-writing an excerpt or chapter from a different perspective. To tie the book back into history, the students could even choose a true event listed in the book, research this event, and then write about it from a completely different viewpoint not even mentioned in the book. This would tie the literature to the true events of history and WWII.


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