This post is part of In Your Ear, a series of audio book reviews by guest blogger Gia Batty, Nobles Director of Academic Support. For more information about In Your Ear, click here.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Narrated by Allan Corduner
13 hours, 57 minutes
Funny thing about this book is that I tried to actually read it a bunch of times over the last five years and I could never get past the first few chapters. I think the farthest I got was page 35 (of 550), and yet this was a book I wanted to read–a book about the power of words and how books could actually save your life. The Book Thief has been on Nobles’ required summer reading list for incoming seventh graders for many years. I wanted to read it for that reason too. I also liked the actual shape of the book–it’s kind of squat and chunky– and it has a great cover, not the new one with the girl from the movie on it, the original cover with the dominos.
Sometimes I just know which books are good for listening to and which ones aren’t. I assumed this was a book to read, not to listen to–mostly because it was a book about books. I thought I needed to actually turn the pages of this book as the characters did, to appreciate the drawings I knew were in there, but I was wrong.
The Book Thief is a book to listen to, especially when Allan Corduner is reading it to you. You probably already know that the novel is narrated by Death, which is weird at first, but Corduner is good at putting the listener at ease and making this concept believable (or believable while listening, which is what we do when we read–we must suspend our disbelief). He’s also good with the German, which I think was part of my issue when I tried to read it on my own. Corduner speaks German. His mother was German. Also interesting is that his mother escaped Nazi Germany with her family in 1938, which, I think, just adds to why he is so good at reading this book as it is essentially about a young girl’s experience of living in Germany at that time.
I’ll give you some plot–but not too much, because I want you to listen to this book. Liesel Meminger, “The Book Thief”, is taken in by foster parents Rosa and Hans Hubermann. Hans is awesome. He plays the accordion; he teaches Liesel to read; he comforts her when she can’t sleep; he’s gentle and brave. Rosa is feisty and foul-mouthed, and, we find out later, is “a good woman for a crisis,” which is key because there are many of those in this book. My favorite character is Liesel’s friend, Rudy Steiner, who, among other things, has deep love for both Liesel Meminger and the track star, Jesse Owens. Those are Rudy’s dominos on the cover of the book, by the way. And last, there is Max Vandenburg, a Jew who hides from the Nazis in the Hubermann’s basement. Max is a fighter, a writer, and a friend to Liesel.
And there are books, lots of books, in this book. Lots of books and lots of words and they are all important. Liesel voraciously reads books to understand the world, she steals books, Max Vandenburg writes books for her, and ultimately, she writes her own book.
Back to Allan Corduner, the narrator, and the reason why you should listen to this beautifully written story. His voice is deep and rich and raspy. His is the voice of Death in this book, but, in the end, it is a voice of hope and wonder that tells the story of an incredible life.
Gia’s Tip: If you do listen, do yourself a favor and keep a copy of the real book close by. You’ll need to orient yourself as to how the chapters are set up, and you’ll want to see the cool drawings that go with Max’s stories.
Filed under In Your Ear