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August 10, 2016
Several years ago, I attended a conference for teachers or librarians and picked up a chunky brown book. I’m not sure if I chose it myself or if it was handed to me, but the title was intriguing: The Book Thief.
I know I read the novel quickly, fascinated by the story of a girl in Germany during World War II. Liesel is being raised by foster parents, she has a wonderful community of friends, and her foster family is harboring a Jew in their basement. And she steals books.
While I don’t remember every moment of that initial read, there were things that stayed with me and details that I would share when suggesting the book to other readers.
When The Book Thief was awarded a Printz Honor (among a dozen other awards and honors) I wanted to re-read it. I picked it up many times, wanting to see if it would hold up to a second reading, but I knew it would take a level of emotional energy I wasn’t sure I could muster. But I never denied Markus Zusak’s skill as a storyteller or how important the book was to me personally.
Earlier this year I learned not only that they’d been filming a movie version of the book, but that the author had been involved (and had shared his impressions from the set). I knew that it was time for me to spend a few days with Death and Liesel again. I picked up the book, made sure I was traveling with a pocket pack of tissues, and began to read.
Immediately, Death charmed me all over again. Liesel became a dear friend. I fell a little bit in love with Liesel’s friend Rudy. I worried for the Hubermanns and Max, the Jewish man in their basement. And I marveled at the author’s incredible skill.
This weekend I’ll walk up to a box office, buy my movie ticket, and meet these characters again on the screen. And no matter what that filmed experience is like, I know that in another six or seven years, I’ll be ready to read the book again.
November 27, 2013