The Boy in Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
Book #15 for 2009
Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli
Book #16 for 2009
Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief was one of my best reads for 2008 (read in October). I waited it a bit to read it because it was really hyped about for a while, and I’m glad that the hype turned out to be well worth it. It was such a charming novel and I loved every bit of it, and I was crying buckets (rivaling the amount of tears I cried while reading Deathly Hallows) throughout the last third of the book.
The characters were so alive, and so lovable — Liesl, Rudy, Papa, Mama, Max — that you can’t help but feel for them. The most compelling thing I found about it was that it was told from the point of view of Death, which was so amazing — an abstract thing, personified! I never thought I’d feel sorry for Death, but in this book I did, especially in the parts when Death was saying he didn’t necessarily like taking lives, that it was just something he had to do… I’m getting sniffy just thinking about it.
I used to avoid Holocaust-themed books because I knew they’d i nevitably be sad, but The Book Thief got me into a Holocaust phase and I ended up getting other books with similar themes.
While not as lengthy or as deep-seated in emotion as The Book Thief, the three books in this selection are also well-written young adult novels, and offer additional insight into the Holocaust.
The Boy in Striped Pyjamas (read last December) is actually subtitled “A Fable,” and it reads like one too, with a matter-of-fact tone. It is the story of nine-year old Bruno, son of a Nazi commandant, who is bewildered at having to move to a new neighborhood because of his dad’s new assignment. They move to a strange place, where their house is the only house for miles. But when Bruno looks out his window, beyond the chain-link fence, he sees thousands of people in blue striped pyjamas. Unbeknownst to his family, Bruno befriends Shmuel, a boy from the other side of the fence, and life is never the same again for Bruno.
I liked this book because of the truly ironic and ohno-ohno-ohno-inducing twist (I swear!), and the innocent naivete of Bruno is heartrending amidst the terrible events happening around him.
Now they’re making it into a movie — David Thewlis as Father, egads! — I’ve got to stock up on the tissues!
Number the Stars is a Newbery-award winning book by one of my favorite authors, and it does not disappoint either. Annemarie and Ellen are best friends in WW2 Denmark, which was trying in vain to resist the Nazi invasion. Ellen’s family is Jewish, and when the hunt for Jews begin, Annemarie and her family must do what they can to help their friends escape.
The book was not as sad as I thought, and it was in fact quite positive and hopeful — unexpected for a Holocaust novel. It seemed different from Lois Lowry’s Anastasia series, and I appreciate that Lowry could write books outside of the series, and win a Newbery while she was at it.
Finally, the biggest surprise came from Milkweed. I’ve never read any books by Jerry Spinelli, although I knew his work is highly acclaimed. I used to think his works were too street, but this one seemed different so I decided to give it a try (not to mention it was P10, hardbound, at Book Sale).
Like The Book Thief, it’s hard to explain Milkweed in a few sentences. Insert deep breath here. I would say it’s a hard-hitting story of friendship, hope and survival about an orphan with no clear identity, who grows up in Nazi-occupied Poland. I can’t explain much more than that, because it gets complicated, but it was like a precursor to The Book Thief (Milkweed was published 2001)– a blend of whimsy, poignancy, and stark reality — and I couldn’t put it down once I started it. I ended up reading most of it in the car on my way to a meeting in QC and then back again to the office (sometimes traffic has its benefits).
The Holocaust is one of the most popular topics for both fiction and non-fiction, but I’m glad there are more books about it in the young adult genre, as its target readers do not usually see history beyond textbooks and classroom lessons. This way, they see history from another person’s point of view, and share the reality that the victims and survivors of that time experienced.
My copies: The Book Thief, paperback mooched from the UK, upgraded into hardcover bought for P160 at the NBS booth at the MIBF; The Boy in Striped Pyjamas, bought for P40 at Book Sale, upgraded to hardcover with dust jacket from NBS Booksak Presyo sale bought for P100, paperback on its way to the US (mooched from me); Number the Stars, paperback, received as a bonus mooch; Milkweed, hardcover, bought for P10 at Book Salei
My ratings: The Book Thief 5/5 stars; The Boy in Striped Pyjamas 4/5 stars; Number the Stars 3.5/5 stars; Milkweed 5/5 stars
Phew, four books in one review!
18 thoughts on “If you liked Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief… (Holocaust review series)”
i’ve read 2 of the books – Book Thief and Number the Stars – and now will put up the others on my tbr.
i’d already read Anne Frank’s Diary and have always been fascinated at how the human spirit could endure so much. when i head about Book Thief, i knew i had to read it despite (or maybe because of) the hype.
you may want to try Night by Elie Wiesel which is a memoir (Wiesel is a Nobel Prize winner for Peace).
Thanks for the recommendation Aloi. I actually gave a copy of “Night” up for mooching a while back. I rarely read memoirs so I welcome this challenge :)
Am adding a links section soon, will link you up :)
Thanks for directing me here! I am going to add these to my TBR pile. Also, thanks so much for listing me in your blogroll. I am honored to be included with such great company!
Hi Hilarie, glad you liked the post :)
Thank you for your suggestions. I have thought about The Boy in the Striped Pajames but had not read it yet. I am very interested in Milkweed and loved your review of this book.
Thank you again!
Hi Sheila, thanks for dropping by :)
I want to read all three of these books also. I am reading for the first time ever “The Diary of Anne Frank”. A truly amazing and near heartbreaking book.
Hi Mel! :) Read Anne Frank in 5th grade and I’m still haunted. I read Night by Elie Wiesel recently too, but I haven’t gotten around to reviewing it yet.
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry is a really delightful book. I read it based on your review. It is a beautifully written book. I learned some interesting things about Denmark’s valiant saving of its Jews in WWII. The book was a Newberry Winner for best child’s book. I am looking forward to reading another one of her books that is in the bookstores now, The Giver. Not a new book but every one seems to love it. I need to read Night.
I suggest that any one who liked “The Book Thief” will also like the author’s prior book, “I Am Messenger”.
Hi Mel! Glad you liked this post. Have just read Night, the review will be up within the week, hopefully.
:) Am also looking for a copy of The Giver and I Am Messenger, I really love Lois Lowry and Markus Zusak
I absolutely loved The Book Thief and thought Number the Stars was good, too. Could I link to this post on War Through the Generations? Actually, you should think about joining the WWII reading challenge, as you’re already well on your way to completing five related books this year. ;)
Hi Anna, yes, I think I’ll join. Let me just get through some pending posts and I’ll blog about the challenge — I also read The Reader this year (that makes it 5 books) and have a couple more in my TBR.
:) Thanks for letting me know about it.
we’ve added a link to your review here: http://warthroughthegenerations.wordpress.com/2009/11/22/reviews-number-the-stars-by-lois-lowry/
Thanks Anna and Serena!
We’ve posted your review of “Milkweed” on War Through the Generations.