Book Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Read the acim author yourself anyway, right? That’s why you’re reading this review. You need to be able to tell at a glance whether or not The Book Thief is appropriate for your child. So let’s get started…


What do you get from a book set in Hitler’s Germany – and narrated by Death?

You get a poignant, moving story that’s somehow heartbreaking and triumphant all at the same time.

The story is about Liesel, a young girl placed with poor foster parents in a home outside of Munich, Germany. Her foster father Hans paints houses and plays the accordion. Her foster mother Rosa does other people’s laundry for pay, when she can get the work. And Liesel? Well, she steals books and other stuff – but mostly books.

The Good Stuff

The Book Thief has many examples of love, kindness and self-sacrifice. Liesel and her foster father develop a special father-daughter bond not long after she’s brought to his home. He sits by her bed every night so he can be there to comfort her after her nightmares. He teaches her to read. He includes her in his life. He’s simply a wonderful, loving Dad.

Her foster mother swears like a sailor – mostly in German. And she’s a strict disciplinarian who doesn’t believe in “sparing the rod.” But her love for Liesel and her big heart become very obvious by the end of the book.

And there’s more…

– The mayor’s wife invites Liesel into her home library to borrow books to read-and even allows her to break in and “steal” books after they have a falling out. She later takes Liesel in after her foster parents are killed in a bombing.

– Hans keeps a promise made years earlier and hides a Jewish man named Max in his basement.

– When Max is deathly ill, Liesel searches for discarded items on the streets to bring him as “gifts.”

– Liesel reads her books to people gathered in a bomb shelter to keep their minds off the raid.

– Hans tries to sneak a piece of bread to an undernourished Jew being marched to a concentration camp.


The reader gets images of war violence in The Book Thief. Jews are paraded down the street and mistreated by the soldiers. A bomber pilot crashes his plane and dies right in front of Liesel and her friend Rudy. A soldier has his legs blown off at the knees – and he dies. Bombs demolish entire streets and towns. And the narrator Death describes taking the souls of those killed.

But that’s not all…

– Liesel is whipped by her foster mother several times for misbehaving – as well as by the teacher at school. She’s also whipped by a Nazi soldier when she tries to talk to Max as he’s being marched to a concentration camp.

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