Markus Zusak is brilliant. (Which is why TBT won the 2006 JHUNT Award.) This book is not about the Holocaust, per se, but it takes place in Nazi Germany during WWII. Death is our (often humorous) narrator, and Liesel Meminger is the main character whose life Death is recounting. The story begins with Liesel, her brother, and her mother traveling by train — to bring the children to a foster home. When Liesel’s brother dies, en route to the foster home, they have to stop and bury him. In the graveyard, Liesel notices a small black book [The Gravediggers Handbook] in the snow and she steals it. She does not yet know how to read, but will eventually use this book to learn how to read (with the assistance of her foster father, Hans Hubermann). Through the years, Liesel continues to steal things, including more books (obviously). But it is not the thievery I find so interesting. It is the unique perspective of this girl — who both hates the fuhrer and must publicly obey/worship him; whose daring actions save the lives of several people she loves; who continues to live, thrive, and survive, despite her many brushes with Death and the people dying all around her. Her status as a fictional character notwithstanding, she inspired me — challenging me to be more positive about my own life circumstances.
Now, I’m not gonna lie… This book is sad. I’m talking, showing up at work with red, teary eyes and worrying people that something is wrong in “real life” sad. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read (or listen to) this story; it just means to have a hanky or a box of tissues handy when you start getting near the end.