The Book Thief by Markus Zusak 

The Book Thief is a historical novel written by the Australian author Markus Zusak. This is one of his most popular works. Published in 2005, The Book Thief became an international bestseller and was translated into 63 languages. It was adapted into the 2013 feature film, The Book Thief.

The novel is about the adventures of Liesel Meminger in Nazi Germany during the Second World War. The book is introduced by the narrator Death, which underlines that mortality is very present in the lives of each character. Throughout the novel, the deaths of prominent characters reaffirm the presence of mortality. 

Book NameThe Book Thief
AuthorMarkus Zusak
GenreNovel-Historical Fiction
Language English, German
Date of PublicationMarch 14th, 2006
No. of Page 552
PublisherAlfred A. Knopf

Death is presented in a manner that is less distant and threatening. Because Death narrates and explains the reasons behind each character’s destruction and explains how he feels that he must take the life of each character, Death is given a sense of care rather than fear. At one point, Death states “even death has a heart,” which reaffirms that there is a care present in the concept of death and dying.

The Book Thief Age Rating

The novel named Book and  Thief rated 13+ for violence. I will suggest, it requires a certain level of maturity to enjoy, and I would only recommend it to an under 13 with well-above-average reading skills. It truly is good for all ages because the underlying themes and precise wording and foreshadowing can keep any reader on edge.

The Book Thief Parents Guide

This book has an interesting but dark storyline and it does teach a good lesson, but it is a very sad and upsetting book. You might want some tissues for the last part. I have heard from lots of readers that they were actually crying as I am.
Sexual Content and Nudity- There is a scene where boys get undressed and naked. And the girl imagines and thinks about it. But tbh it wasn’t that bad and it didn’t go into too much detail. There was a kiss, but the sexual content wasn’t bad.
Liesel kisses a boy for the first time as he is dying because of the bombs, and they are both about 14.
Violence: There is violence in this book but it’s World War 2 there was violent and people did die in real life and we think children or teenagers should know that.
The violence of the war, causes the deaths of many major beloved characters, there are also beatings, whippings, fights, and suicide.
Characters are scared of being bombed by the Americans
There’s a character that commits suicide, and they describe the bleeding of his hand!
There’s talk about the war one soldier returns home missing 3 fingers on his right hand. He tells the main character how his brother died after getting both his legs blown off by a bomb. This character missing his fingers later commits suicide by hanging himself with a bedsheet.
The foster father goes to war and works during air raids, seeing many bodies and injured people throughout.
At the end of the book, an air raid kills people on the main character’s street, and she finds the bodies.
The main character, Liesel, and her best friend steal often, but Liesel is most interested in stealing books.
Drinking/ Drugs: The main character’s foster father likes to roll his own cigarettes, and teaches the main character how to roll them for him. She takes drags from the cigarettes once or twice. Drinking isn’t shown as much, there’s only one instance I can think of. The foster father is being paid for work he did in champagne, and he lets the main character have a glass. She didn’t like the bubbles, but underage drinking still occurred and is present in the book.
Adults and children smoke and drink champagne.
Language: The language is strongish, s—, a–hole, g—–n, sl-t, and w—e, and other insults in German are used. 
There were lots of languages. Most of the curse words were in German, but it did explain what the words meant. The words that were in English were less frequent.
The Book Thief Age Rating The Book Thief Parents Guide 2006
The Book Thief Age Rating The Book Thief Parents Guide 2006

The Book Thief Summary

“Humans, if nothing else, have the good sense to die.”
― Markus Zusak, The Book Thief

It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier and will be busier still.

By her brother’s graveside, Liesel’s life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Gravedigger’s Handbook, left behind there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery. So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordion-playing foster father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor’s wife’s library, wherever there are books to be found.

But these are dangerous times. When Liesel’s foster family hides a Jew in their basement, Liesel’s world is both opened up and closed down.

In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time.

The Book Thief Characters

  • Death- The narrator of the story. The novel progresses and World War II accelerates, Death expresses weariness and remorse about having to collect so many souls. To the reader, Death insists that it “most definitely can be cheerful”, even affable, but also relates that it most certainly cannot be nice. And sometimes Death is “compelled” to take action in sympathy with the human story
  • Liesel Meminger- The protagonist of the story. Liese is an adopted girl on the verge of adolescence, with blonde hair with brown eyes. Liesel changes from an angry, distrusting character to one who deeply loves her family and friends. By the end of the book, she has a strong personal moral code and is not afraid to endanger herself to enforce it.  She is fostered by the Hubermanns after her biological father “abandons” their family due to being a Communist, her brother dies, and her mother is forced to send her to a foster home to avoid Nazi persecution. 
  • Hans Hubermann- Liesel’s stepfather and husband of Rosa. Hans is a former German soldier during the First World War. Hans is patient and gentle with Liesel and is the first adult able to win her trust. He is constantly motivated to help others, and his strong sense of right and wrong causes him to act against his own best interests. He develops a close and loving relationship with Liesel and becomes the main source of strength and support for her. He, like Liesel, doesn’t have much experience with reading. Together, the two help each other with reading and writing. 
  • Rosa Hubermann- Liesel’s stepmother. Opposite to her husband she is cold and impatient. Besides her temper, she is a loving wife and mother. She does washing and ironing to supplement the household income.
  • Max Vandenburg- The Hubermann’s secret lodger.
  • A Jewish- fist-fighter who takes refuge from the Nazi regime in the Hubermann’s basement. He is the son of a First World War German soldier who fought alongside Hans Hubermann, and the two developed a close friendship during the war. He has brown, feather-like hair and swampy brown eyes. 
  • Rudy Steiner- Liesel’s best friend. Having blond hair, blue eyes, and athletic and intellectual talents. He is in love with Liesel and is always there for her. He is known throughout the neighborhood because of the “Jesse Owens incident”, in which he colored himself black with charcoal one night and ran one hundred meters at the local sports field. 
  • Alex Steiner- Rudy’s father. Alex’s inability to sacrifice his son to the Nazi training camp results in his being drafted into the army. 
  • Ilsa Hermann- The mayor’s wife. Ilsa allows Liesel to visit, read, and steal books in her personal library. She also gives Liesel a little black book, which leads Liesel to write her own story, “The Book Thief”.
  • Werner Meminger- Liesel’s little brother, who unfortunately died suddenly on the train with his mother and sister, was transported to their foster parents. 
  • Hans Jr  is the son of Hans and Rosa Huberman. 
  • Frau Holtzapfel- The Hubermanns’ neighbor. 
  • Michael Holtzapfel- Frau Holtzapfel’s son, who survives the war. Michael is destroyed by guilt over having survived and wanting to continue living.
  • Robert Holtzapfel- Michael’s brother.
  • Tommy Müller- Liesel and Rudy’s classmate. Physically weak because of his bad ears, he is often pathetic and pitiable.
  • Arthur Berg- The first leader of the apple-stealing gang. 
  • Walter Kugler- The man who helps Max escape. 
  • Franz Deutscher- The leader of Rudy’s Hitler Youth group. A sadist who represents the Nazi ideal, he takes special pleasure in tormenting and humiliating Rudy.
  • Viktor Chemmel- The second leader of the apple-stealing gang. Like Franz, he is a sadist who exploits his own power.
  • Reinhold Zucker- The man who trades seats with Hans on the bus, saving his life. Zucker is young, impetuous, and a bad loser. His temper gets him killed.

The Book Thief Review

The most interesting thing about The Book Thief is that it is narrated by Death.

One of the best young adult books I’ve read that incorporates a great plot, realistic characters genuinely engaged in inner conflict, and strikingly good literary technique. As I read it I felt it was the “new” classic of our age and should be on everyone’s reading list.

Yes, the storyline is dark and extremely sad, but the way that death is portrayed in this book is very metaphorical and it is not an inappropriate read.

The Book Thief Trailer

The Book Thief | Official Trailer [HD] | 20th Century FOX

“Even death has a heart.”
― Markus Zusak, The Book Thief

Official Website:

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