Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Death - and a Mesmerizing Tale; Steal Some Time to Read 'The Book Thief'

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Death - and a Mesmerizing Tale; Steal Some Time to Read 'The Book Thief'

Article excerpt

Title: The Book Thief

Author: Markus Zusak

Data: Alfred A. Knopf, 552 pages, $16.95, teen fiction


The Times-Union

* * * A well-known fact * * *

We are all going to die.

* * * The role of Death as featured in the new novel The Book Thief * * *

Author Markus Zusak's Death is like love. In fact, when it speaks as the narrator of The Book Thief, Death resembles the love described in I Corinthians in the Bible. It's patient and kind; it's neither jealous or boastful. Its voice is the eloquent and poetic center of Zusak's book, which includes commentarylike asides set off with asterisks, lists and several stories within a story.

Zusak's Death is also busy, arms heavy from the burden of lifting up souls in Africa and Auschwitz, Berlin and Britain, Poland and Paris.

World War II hums its constant legacy of destruction.

But Death is not alone; he will cross paths with a young girl he names "the book thief" several times during the war.

* * * This is where her story begins * * *

There's a train ride; a snow-covered landscape; the fitful, final coughing gasps of the book thief's 6-year-old brother; a wintery grave . . . and a book.

The book's title: The Grave Digger's Handbook.

The book's thief: 9-year-old Liesel Meminger, who stands in the snow with frozen, tear-streaked cheeks. This is her first meeting with Death.

They meet again four years later in the middle of a bombed-out street. Its name means "heaven." She's sobbing and alone. She drops a book. Death retrieves it.

It is the story of Liesel Meminger's life.

It includes: a home, an accordion, a new mama and papa, a promise, an emaciated Jew named Max hiding in a basement, a best friend who once painted himself black and ran like Jesse Owens, pea soup, an open window, a request for a kiss, a lot of courage, and words - thousands of words.

I'll start with the words, or lack there of.

When Liesel Meminger arrives on Himmel Street in Molching, Germany, she meets her new foster parents, The Hubermans: Rosa, a spoon-wielding, blustering dominator with a heart; and Hans, a sensitive, accordion-playing painter who helps Liesel discover words. …

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