Dates Started/Ended: Early February/Early March
Author: Markus Zusak
Genre: Historical Fiction with a unique twist
I first saw this book in the book room at my school. The cover caught my interest, and I added it to my mental “want to read” shelf. Just so happens, that a few days later, I was visiting the library to pick up some books for my classroom for a project, that I saw this gem sitting on the used book sale shelf at my public library, and for the price of $2.00 I couldn’t pass it up.
This book, is undoubtedly the most unique book that I have ever read. It tells the story of a young girl named Lisel, who is sent to live with another family during World War II. Her mother takes her to her new home by train, and that is when her story begins. On the train, her young brother dies (not a spoiler, I promise.) The namesake for this book, comes from Lisel, stealing books. She steals her first book at her brother’s burial. What book would someone steal from a burial site, you may ask? The Grave Digger’s Handbook, of course.
This book quickly becomes Lisel’s most prized possession, after she arrives at her new home, with the Hubberman family. Her new “mother” is a very strong willed, crude German lady. Her father, on the other hand, is the more quiet type, who paints houses, and storefronts for a living. Lisel and her father bond over the words from The Grave Digger’s Handbook, in the still quiet of the middle of the night, each night when Lisel awakes from nightmares. Her father is always there to comfort her when she wakes from nightmares and little by little teaches Lisel to read.
Soon, Lisel understands the magic of books and the story they can tell, and steals more and more books any opportunity she gets (from Nazi burnings, and the Mayor’s library, just to name a few.) Meanwhile, the Hubbermans decide to take a huge risk during this time, they decide to hide a jew in their basement. Lisel and the jew find they have a lot in common and spend a lot of time together. She brings him news and stories from the outside world, which help him survive more than she knows. Lisel’s love for books help comfort many people in difficult times throughout the story.
What I love about this book: I could really go on and on about this book, but I want you to read it instead! The thing I actually love the most about this book, is the unique perspective of the narrator. A quick look at the back cover will tell you that this book is “…narrated by Death…” Think about it, WWII, Nazi Germany, and death as a narrator. I don’t think you will be disappointed by this book.
Something else that is unique about this book, is how it is divided into sections. Each section is titled by the book that Lisel steals. Within those sections, there are many smaller sections. There are also bold print “announcements” for a lack of a better word, when the narrator just needs to tell you something. The format is captivating, for sure.
Have the tissues handy, because like many WWII books, it toys with your emotions. Be prepared to read long in to the night, because the narrator has a way of “throwing you a bone” so to speak, with things to come. It is a fairly easy read though, since it is YA fiction.