The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
This story is narrated by the grim reaper who holds a fascination and love for man. Death uses color to describe the moment he takes a soul into his arms the way we would describe the weather. In Death's dutiful and busy labor during World War Two, he (she? it?) observes a very spirited little German girl, penned "The Book Thief", whose story he feels worthy to tell.
The author takes us into the world of a poor neighborhood in Munich, where we meet Liesel Meminger growing up in a foster home in Germany as her whole world tumbles into Hitler crazed politics. The story, as told from the view point of German citizens, also victims of an evil regime that drove to control the soul of the people, casts light on their innocence. We visit, through Liesel's eyes and heart, the forced depravity of the Jew, the terror of having your homes bombed, and the embodying fear of being convicted for your private thoughts. Your neighbors could not be trusted, which was why Hitler was so successful in the appearance of national support.
At this point, I would think you would be running away from this book; who can withstand to relive such pain? However, the redeeming qualities of love, perseverance, and the energy and hopefulness of youth, as recognized by our dear grim, make this book a page turner. The nontraditional format of child-like illustrations, lists and special bolded points make this also an entertaining book to read. I would also like to add that Zusak does an astounding job with his characters, both evil and good, making this one redeeming quality of this war story.
The realities of World War Two must be revisited upon us and our children. They must know what happened, even if it was from the viewpoint of a child. This would be an excellent book not only for a book club, but also for a teaching platform. We should all be reminded that free thought, free speech, and our rights as a free citizen in a country where no one is persecuted by our government on the basis of race or belief is a treasure that we must all work to preserve. It can be lost, and once we forget this, it will be.