Weekend Reading 3/23/06
Science Bios and More

Clap Your Hands Say Markus Zusak

Markus Zusak. That's the name of the hour in kid-lit reviews. The Australian author, seen a couple of weeks ago on "Good Morning America,"  wrote The Book Thief, and the newspapers are all over the young adult novel, which is narrated by an unusual character—Death.  The publisher Knopf describes Zusak's new work this way,

Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.

Today the critic Janet Maslin at the New York Times said, "Markus Zusak has not really written Harry Potter and the Holocaust. It just feels that way." Yee-ouch. She added that The Book Thief is "loaded with librarian appeal," and I don't think she means that as a compliment, either. However, the San Francisco Chroncile said, " Zusak's writing is at times marred by some postmodern tricks—inserting asides in boldface, some cloying commentary by Death—but, overall, his style is lyrical and moving." Newsday liked it too, noting, "There is lasting horror at the heart of Zusak's novel, but there is also hope, humor, decency—not to mention piercing moments in which books bring people together in a 'quiet gathering of words.' "

In Australia, The Book Thief was published as a work for adults.


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