2.9 Reading response 1: The Book Thief

The Book Thief

“A girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery.” written by Markus Zusak a brilliant novel, “the book thief”  achingly sad, and an intricately structured book about Nazi Germany, narrated by death itself. It is 1939, in Nazi Germany, “death has never been busier and will become busier still”, Death tells a story of a young girl named Liesel, Liesel’s life is changed when her little brother dies just before Liesel’s mother leaves her with foster parents in a dismal town in southern Germany.

“You will know me well enough and soon enough, depending on a diverse range of variables. It suffices to say that at some point in time, I will be standing over you, as genially as possible. Your soul will be in my arms. A color will be perched on my shoulder. I will carry you gently away.” I am introduced to this death-as-storyteller concept that begins “the book thief” Death narrates this story, describes main characters and gives his own opinion about humans. In the book thief, we have a kinder, gentler death, who feels sympathy for his victims. In page one death writes himself as; “I can be amicable. Agreeable. Affable. And that’s only the A’s.” Markus Zusak writes of death and the way the book is narrated by death gives a “unique and compassionate voice to a narrator who can comment on Human’s inhumanity to Human without being ponderous.” I hear the depth of German life – which is one aspect of what makes this book so interesting and gripping. From the point of view of Death I see the world – and the war, through the detail Markus Zusak manages to convey in this “great literary masterpiece of a novel”.

my perseptive on the main character Liesel also know as “the book thief” she is a brave, inspiring character that makes young adult readers fall in love with her personality and determination. Death says that Liesel is the girl “with a mountain to climb.” Liesel’s first mountain to climb is learning to read. “And she loved the fact that despite her failure in the classroom, her reading and writing were definitely improving and would soon be on the verge of something respectable” I believe Liesels main mountain to climb is the way she is passing from being illiterate to understand how powerful words can be. I found that Liesel is a strong independent 9-year-old girl, she stands up for herself and is kind-hearted. Liesel’s birth mother could not afford to care for Liesel or her brother any longer so she thought that the best thing to do for her children was to send them to a better family. On the way to the foster home, Liesel’s brother died, i believe this would be the first of many deaths Liesel would have to encounter over the next couple of years. Later, Liesel attended her brother’s funeral where she stole her first book called, The Grave Digger’s Handbook. This is when the narrator; Death met Liesel for the first time. After her brother’s death and burial, she is taken to live with foster parents Rosa and Hans Huberman. she becomes best friends with the “lemon sunshine-haired” boy who lives down the road and connects with the “ghost” in the basement 

i found Hans Huberman to be a kind-hearted, warm and caring character who Liesel looked up to as a fatherly figure, i read Hans as a sympathetic man who represents self- sacrifice and wisdom of experience. Hans has many talents such as painting and playing the accordion which is shown throughout the novel, Hans was a huge influence on Liesel and taught her how to read and the importance of words. “Sometimes I think my papa is an accordion when he looks at me and smiles and breathes, I hear the notes.” 

As I read I found Rosa Huberman, on the other hand, is harsh, strict and complicated at times. Rosa Huberman rules the household with an iron fist, she has a quick temper and is known for straightening out previous foster children, however, though she often swears at Liesel, I think she cares very much for her as well as her husband Hans. Death describes rosa as “an attribution of Rosa Hubermann, she was a good woman for a crisis.” Rosa implicates to be like a sour woman with her wooden spoons and constant scolding at the beginning of the novel, though towards the end Rosa changes from a mean foster mother to a comforter and even a role model.

Rudy Steiner was Liesel’s lemon/sunshine-haired best friend and partner in crime. I found Rudy was an amazing, beautiful, relentlessly loyal and inspiring character in the Book Thief and had “bony legs, sharp teeth, gangly blue eyes, and hair the colour of a lemon” Rudy wanted to be the “faster runner alive” and looked up to and adored the famous Jesse Owens; Jesse Owens was an American track-and-field athlete who won four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games. Rudy admired Jesse Owens so much that he painted himself with charcoal and tried to reenact the race where Jesse won a gold medal. “He smeared the charcoal on, nice and thick, till he was covered in black.” “I was being Jesse Owens, He answered as though it was the most natural thing on earth to be doing.” “You know, Papa, the Black Magic one.”  “I just wish I was like Jesse Owens, Papa.” Rudy, “the boy who refuses to fear the opposite sex” loves Liesel from the moment he meets her, befriends her and can’t help asking her for a kiss any chance he gets,  i believe with his daring, carefree, and kind attitude and  his love for adventure and reckless schemes, he is the perfect best friend for Liesel.

Max Vandenburg is a Jewish man and is the son of the man who saved Hans Huberman’s life in world war 1.  Max’s father is also the owner of the accordion Liesel adored, and looked to as safety and reassurance.  The Huberman family take in the risk of hiding max in their basement due to a promise Hans Huberman made to Max’s father before his death. Throughout max’s time in the Huberman basement, Max and Liesel become close friends and I believe are similar in ways. They share a history of fist-fighting and a respect for words. They both have nightmares about their pasts, and they both see Hans Hubermann and his accordion as a source of safety. Max writes books for Liesel about all that she has done for him and about how her words and her tears are able to save him and give him strength. He and Liesel become great friends during their time together.

I read Liesel’s gradual shift from frightened, to accepting, to strong, shows bravery is born from experience. Death tells a story of Liesel and her life through the time of Nazi, Germany. From stealing a ham from Otto Sturm who was delivering the ham to the priests, to hiding Max who was a Jew, To when Liesel risked her life for Frau Holtzapfel’s and her son’s safety. “While Liesel sometimes joins up with a gang to steal food, her only thieving passion is for books. Not good books or bad books — just books. from her bedroom to the bomb shelter down the road, reading helps her commune with the living and the dead — and finally, it is the mere existence of stories that prove to be her salvation” (John Green).

After a bombing where there were no sirens, Liesel found out she was the only one on Himmel Street who had survived. “There was only one body now, on the ground, and Liesel lifted him up and hugged him. She wept over the shoulder of Hans Hubermann. Goodbye, Papa, you saved me. You taught me to read. No one can play like you. I’ll never drink champagne. No one can play like you. Her arms held him. She kissed his shoulder- she could not bear to look at his face anymore- and she placed him down again. The book thief wept until she was gently taken away”.  Although Liesel was the only one who had served on Himmel street she stayed strong for herself. I think The pain that Liesel had experienced in her early years, gave her a sense of bravery for the future.

Throughout the book, I belive Liesel turns from a scared young girl who barely talks, to a confident woman with a strong opinion about life where her courage and bravery made an impact on everyone around her. I found Liesel was an inspiring character in the novel, many messages are portrayed through Liesel’s actions throughout the novel and Towards the end of the book, Liesel’s courage and strength are admirable. Liesel shows me that if she could survive this horrible event, that anyone could. It teaches readers around the world to keep trying and eventually they will have the courage to stick up to some of life’s hardest problems. Everyone she loved and cared about died and she had nowhere to turn to. Instead of giving up, she kept fighting which makes her an extremely brave character with determination with admirable qualities. 

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