Merry Wanderer of the Night + young adult

Book Review: The Book Thief

Liesel Meminger steals books. It's hard to really classify her as a thief though, because she steals books from Nazi book-burnings-- and I could totally understand the desire to steal a book in a world where everything is censored. Liesel wants to know more about the world and what is happening, and she is experiencing the war unlike others her age because she is friends with a Jewish man who her family hides in their basement. All of these things are happening while Liesel learns how to read in The Book Thief

. Even though I know how to read, I was once again reminded how powerful books are and how important they are. After reading The Book Thief I wanted to see two things during my time in Germany. The book burning memorial in Berlin and Dachau concentration camp in Munich, the latter is strongly related to this book because Dachau is mentioned pretty frequently. Reading The Book Thief gave those things an added weight because I could imagine the characters from the book while I was looking at those sights.

The book is narrated by Death, which as you might guess makes it extremely bizarre. You actually sympathize with Death because you can tell he isn't choosing to take these people's lives, he is just doing as he is ordered. You can tell he is upset about what is happening, and he is tired from all the taking he has to do. In some ways I think this shows how people in Nazi Germany felt at the time-- like they were somehow forced to act in a way to support the Nazi party even if they didn't agree with it (possibly because they felt their lives would be taken from them).

Entrance to Dachau Concentration Camp.

I feel like this book has been widely read and discussed, but I'd like to talk about a personal experience with it. When I went to Dachau I expected to be overcome by emotion, but I wasn't. I don't know what other schools are like, but I have a difficult time remembering a year of elementary and high school where I did not learn about the Holocaust in an English or history class. Our education makes us deeply aware of what happened-- to the point where it becomes to difficult to look at the place where it happened and not be a little immune to it all. I did not feel unemotional or immune during The Book Thief. I was upset, crying, could not believe that this happened. I connected much better with this story than I did with any memorial I saw in Germany. I think that is a great testament to the power of books, which is what this book is all about. Going to the place where it happened, walking through a museum, they are important and wonderful things to do, but nothing makes me understand the Holocaust better than reading stories about it.

"I wanted to tell the book thief many things, about beauty and brutality. But what could I tell her about those things that she didn't already know? I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race-that rarely do I ever simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant."

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Book Review: The Book Thief + young adult