Death is the narrator to this story during the time of the holocaust. The protagonist in this young adult novel is “Death.” I will refer to Death as a male gender, but know that it is neither male nor female. The story begins with Death seeking souls and it is during the time of the Holocaust. Death then focuses on the “book thief,” a young orphaned girl whose brother died in their mother's arms while they were in transit to Munich in an attempt to escape the Nazis. Death has been quite busy lately what with the Holocaust in full force.
We soon learn that the book thief's name is Liesel Meminger and her mother has arranged to have people, the Hubermann's, on the outskirts of Munich take her in for safety's sake, even though Liesel, who is about twelve-years old, doesn't understand much of it. Mrs. Rosa Hubermann is gruff and bitter, as if annoyed that they are taking in the child, even though the mother has paid them and they dearly need the money. Mr. Hans Hubermann is gentle and sweet and likes to play the accordion. Eventually, Liesel bonds with him and learns to avoid Mrs. Hubermann.
Liesel befriends a boy her own age. His name is Rudy and he has a crush on Liesel and he repeatedly tries to get her to kiss him, but she refuses. Meanwhile, the Nazis are insisting the townspeople obey Hitler's commands and they have a book burning in the town square. Hans and Liesel are disgusted by this, but it is Liesel who rushes over to the pile of ash once most everyone has left and grabs a book that hasn't totally been burned. Off in the distance, there is a car with a woman sitting in it who sees what Liesel has done. Soon, we discover this is a very rich woman married to the mayor. She has her laundry done by Rosa and it is up to Liesel to get the dirty laundry and then return it once it has been cleaned. After the woman has gained the little girl's trust, she invites her into her home and shows Liesel a room filled from floor to ceiling with books. She allows Liesel to read whatever she wants. Liesel is in heaven, but does not share this with Rudy, until he follows her one day and figures it out. Yet, Liesel has a bigger secret: Her foster family is hiding and caring for a young Jewish man. They are risking much to do so, even though they have little food to share and have surprise visits by the Nazis and must hide the young man. Liesel and this young man become friends and both share a love for reading. The young man finds a way to make a book for Liesel as he hides beneath the steps in their basement. Soon, the young Jewish man must leave, but Liesel is heartbroken and worries that she'll never see him again.
After awhile, Rudy dares Liesel to take a book from the rich woman's library and she does, which is another reason why Death refers to her as the book thief. Meanwhile, Death is still busy with taking souls during the horror of this war. The people in Liesel's town must practice air raids, but it is one time when they are caught unaware and most are killed. Liesel, who was down in the basement reading, has managed to survive while her foster parents and Rudy have not. She finds the accordion and clings to it with all her might. She also sees Rudy's body and that is when she finally kisses him on the lips. The mayor's wife takes in the little girl and many, many years later, Death comes for Liesel and shows her the book she once owned. Death has made it clear that it does not like to take souls, but must do so.
This book was recently made into a movie, and it was quite true to the book.
Best part of story, including ending:
I didn't like or hate this story, but found the premise fascinating since the narrator was Death.
Best scene in story:
When Liesel discovers that the mayor's wife has a library filled with books. It was more impressive to the child than a kitchen filled with all types of foods. She hungered for culture and the book displayed that to believability.
Opinion about the main character:
Death was the narrator and I liked that it did not take joy in stealing the souls. It was as though it was not responsible for those killed, but was there to capture their souls. The ending of this book made that clear to me.