The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

51lk1ngak6l-_sx317_bo1204203200_Information: The Book Thief was originally published in 2005 by Knopf Books for Young Readers. ISBN: 0375831002

Plot Summary: The Book Thief is a World War II story about an orphan named Liesel Meminger, who faces numerous challenges, difficulties, and death repeatedly up until the end of the war. Death is the unique narrator for this story as he follows Liesel into her new foster home and watches her become the intriguing book thief, struggling to survive with her new family and limited food and resources. As Liesel learns adapts to her new surroundings, by learning to read, making new friends, and stealing what she needs, Liesel also faces the harsh reality of one of the darkest periods in history, the Holocaust. Liesel is forced to watch the Holocaust impact the many lives of the people of her new town and even new family and friends. Death depicts Liesel’s amazing story of strength, survival, and compassion, as her life becomes the center of the persecution of Jews, bombings, raids, and loss of loved ones.

Critical Evaluation: The Book Thief offers a unique look of World War II and the Holocaust through the eyes of Death. By personifying Death itself, Zusak is able to examine the true strengths, weaknesses, and motivations for those struggling to survive one of the darkest periods in history. Liesel is a young character, who consistently shows signs of immaturity. But, Death’s depiction of her time during the war shows how a love of learning, determination, and compassion for all of those around her can make even the darkest of situations brighter.

Reader’s Annotation: Liesel’s story of survival during World War II is told from the point of view of Death, as he gathers the souls of the war causalities around her. While struggling to maintain a normal life during such a violent time, Liesel continually faces Death without realizing his true impact on her story.

Author’s InformationMarkus Zusak was born in 1975 and is the author of five books, including the international bestseller, The Book Thief, which is translated into more than forty languages. First released in 2005, The Book Thief has spent a total of 375 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, and still remains there eight years after it first came out.

His first three books, The Underdog, Fighting Ruben Wolfe and When Dogs Cry (also known as Getting the Girl), released between 1999 and 2001, were all published internationally and garnered a number of awards and honours in his native Australia, and the USA.

It is The Book Thief, however, that has established Markus Zusak as one of the most successful authors to come out of Australia. To date, The Book Thief has held the number one position at,, the New York Times bestseller list, as well as in countries across South America, Europe and Asia. It has also been in the top five bestsellers in the UK and several other territories. It has amassed many and varied awards, ranging from literary prizes to readers choice awards to prizes voted on by booksellers. It was the only book to feature on both the USA and UK World Book Night Lists in 2012, and has now been adapted into a major motion picture (Markus Zusak).

Genre: Historical Fiction, Young Adult Fiction

Curriculum Ties: (Florida State Curriculum Standards): Understanding Key Literary Ideas

Book Talk Ideas:

  1. As we see books have a great impact on Liesel’s life. How do books have an impact on our society and us personally? Are there any similarities to how it is shown books effect Liesel’s life?
  2. While Liesel dealt with many difficulties throughout her young life. Out of all of those, is there a real antagonist in the story?

Reading Level/ Age Interest: Grades 8-12 (Scholastic) and Ages 14-18

Challenge Issues: Death, Violence, Loss, Prejudice.

Challenge Defense File:

Selection Policy

The System will select and maintain a comprehensive collection of print, non-print, audio visual and electronically accessed materials to meet the informational, educational, and recreational needs of the citizens of Sarasota County. The System will strive to offer wide ranging collections that meet the various ages, interests, educational levels, and cultural backgrounds of all members of the community and will provide collections through which an individual may explore all points of view and issues of interest. In making selections, the library staff will do so based upon principle rather than personal opinion, reason rather than prejudice, and judgment rather than censorship. Furthermore, staff will be responsive to public demand for materials of contemporary significance and interest, while balancing this with the need to collect and preserve materials of permanent value. While library staff makes material selections based upon the tenet of one system, one collection, selectors recognize the distinct characteristics and needs of the populace that each library services. Community profiles are used to guide selectors in efforts to develop special collections and to meet the unique patron needs within each library.

The ultimate responsibility for selection materials rests with the General Manager of Libraries and the Management Team, who in turn delegates selection responsibilities to the Collection Development Librarians (Sarasota County Policy).  


Zusak, M. (2005). The Book Thief. New York, New York: Knopf Books for Young Readers. The Book Thief was originally intended for young adults, but has since gone on to be published for adults. It is the story of how a nine year old orphan grows and continues to learn through the many tragedies and struggles caused by World War II. This book is part of the collection because it is a unique retelling of a period in history that shaped the world. The Book Thief features a strong female character that shows a passion for reading, learning, and compassion for people around her, despite their differences. The book also details the importance of dealing with trauma and loss at young age. Other recommendations like this book include: Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson, Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, and The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner.

Active Listening Skills

  • Remain calm
  • Listen thoughtfully and carefully to any arguments for the collection
  • Engage in a discussion that considers every concern, even if you do not agree


  • National Jewish Book Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature (2006)
  • Book Sense Book of the Year Award for Children’s Literature (2007)
  • Michael L. Printz Award Nominee (2007)
  • Abraham Lincoln Award Nominee (2010)

Reconsideration Form


Selection Tools:

Why I chose this book:

I chose this book because of its compelling retelling of the Holocaust and how World War II impacted the lives of so many. The novel transcends the lines between kid, teen, and adult literature.  The novel’s unique narration offers a great example of personification and can open up a much needed discussion of loss and grief among teens.


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