Tag: The Book Thief

Book or Movie? Your answer Does matter

Image from devantart.net

A new movie trailer revs your adrenaline. The title sounds vaguely familiar. Right. It echoes from the bestselling book list – New York Times or Amazon.

Sometimes this is a good thing. I’m thinking about Catching Fire, which moved along quite well on the big screen. Things were still lost; many of them had been cut from the first movie. Overall, I experienced the same thrill ride during the movie as I had reading the book (except for the shock at the end was no surprise since I’d read the novel first).

Many times it would be better for movie makers to leave the story alone. I wonder if authors are so eager to make a buck that they don’t care about what a movie does to their story. Maybe they give away their right to approve the script before any filming happens.

I want to give them the benefit of the doubt and say it is the second answer. Who would want the true message of their story buried beneath special effects and poor acting?

“Have you read the book?” is one of my favorite questions when someone raves about the latest and greatest at the box office. More and more blockbuster films are adaptations from a bestselling novel.

Most of the time, I get one of these three responses:

  1. “No, but I’ve heard it’s really good.”   So they are basing their decision to see the movie on more than just the movie trailer. Someone in their circle of friends has a literary bone or a craving for reading. The reader has done what all authors wish they would – bragged to others about how lost they got in the story. Do they take that final step and tell their friends, “You should read it”?
  2. “No. Have you?”  I respect people for this avoidance tactic. Most of the people who use this response haven’t read a book for pleasure in their lives. Maybe they’re too busy, too tired or too something. Most likely, they never learned to love to read. After all, reading engages your brain. Watching a movie lulls it to sleep. (I wrote an entire post about this that may or may not see the light of day at a later date – if I can keep it from sounding like a rant.)
  3. “I started it, but I know I’ll like the movie better.”  I’m saddened by this answer to my question. This indicates a deeper issue that could bury the market for books beneath the cry for movies. The reader can’t visualize the words and concepts shared on the page by the author. Maybe they aren’t a fluent reader. Perhaps they just have no imagination. Whatever the reason, they are content to let a filmmaker somewhere decide what aspects of the story are important.

keep-calm-and-read-the-book-before-the-movie-3All of these responses thrill those Hollywood executives with their Maseratis and $1000 suits. They gladly take your $8 – $10 at the box office and don’t care if you ever read the book.

What about the original creator of such a fantabulous story? Yes, I’m talking about the author. Most people who love the movies, don’t even know the names of those original architects. Can you say Nicholas Sparks, Suzanne Collins or John Green?

When I’m asked if I’ve read the book, I have one of three responses:

  1. “No, but I put it on my ‘to be read’ list when I saw the movie trailer.” Two books that come to mind are The Help and The Fault in our Stars. I haven’t heard negative tales of the movies doing the book a disservice.
  2. “Of course. I’m worried the movie will completely destroy the story.” Eragon, Christopher Paolini’s bestseller was completely misrepresented and befuddled in the hands of movie makers.
  3. “Yes and I wish they wouldn’t try to make a movie about this. It’s a book everyone should read.” This was my response to The Book Thief. I haven’t seen the movie, but literary people I respect tell me the movie holds true to the book.

What do you think about books that later become movies? Do you feel people should always read the book? Are there times the movie is a better representation of the author’s purpose?

Three Young Adult books everyone should Read

A winner in my book - not just Pulitzer's
A winner in my book – not just Pulitzer’s

Feel the wind in my hair. See the passing scenery. Experience the joy only the telling of a good story births in my heart, soul and mind.

Books too numerous to name have impacted me. Some of them changed my opinion or beliefs. Others resonated on a spiritual level. Many made me weep and many others made me bust out laughing.

Only a select few meet my desire for authentic characters facing realistic foes in a story line that offered just enough tension to keep me turning pages. Even fewer have all this and poetic prose that ignites my imagination.

I won’t say that the five books I’m mentioning here have all of those things. What they do offer: a thoughtful message in a bottle within a framework that makes it enjoyable to read.

The other disclaimer I have is that these are books I’ve read in the past two years. They don’t represent the most important literature every young adult should read. Nor are they the most amazing books from that genre I’ve ever read.

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Lee Harper

It’s a Pulitzer Prize winner, but that doesn’t guarantee anything. This coming of age story paints a realistic portrait of small town life, sibling rivalry, friendship, single parenthood and the importance of being true to what you believe.

  1. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I’m not a fan of stories set during the Holocaust; they’re just too heavy. The original voice gives this book an edge over all the others. If it didn’t have a happy ending, it wouldn’t be on my list. The characters are tried by fire and come out refined.

  1. Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Not just another Cinderella story, this book tackles important issues like discrimination, governmental controls, and defining the fine line between medical research and murder. If a person has some cybernetic parts, does that mean they are less than human? This is the only “fantasy” on my list.

If you’ve read these books, I welcome your comments about whether you agree with the “must read” status I’ve granted them.

Sound off readers of YA books. What books would you add from the YA category that you consider “must reads” for all young adult readers?

The Book Thief

Sometimes friends urge you to read a book, extolling it as classic or calling it riveting. When you open the cover, your expectations soar. A few pages in, you begin to wonder if you have the right book. By the end of chapter three, you can barely keep your eyes open.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is not this sort of book.

Did my friends encourage me to read it? *nods head* Several teachers I deeply respect seemed amazed I hadn’t read it. Not amazed in a good way either.

The book has been on my “to be read” list for months. It has hardly been alone. At least 20 others books kept it company.

My sister received a Kindle for Christmas and the next week I benefitted. Imagine my surprise when I perused the email telling me she had loaned me an ebook. (“You can do that?”) After I figured out how to return the favor, I opened The Book Thief and began to read.

Why I hadn’t been eager to move the book to the top of my list

I like happy endings. What a Pollyanna, you say. *Shrugs* I can’t help it. Life is full of sad beginnings, middles and endings. When I open a book, I want to escape all that.

Zusak’s book is set in Nazi Germany. That was enough to help me pass it by on several occasions when my teacher friends handed it my direction.

If there is a more UNhappy time in history, I don’t know what it is. Please don’t tell me. The eradication of six million innocent people because some maniac didn’t like their ethnic background gags me just fine, thanks.

Incredible things about the writing

In Nazi Germany, there is only one person whose point of view we haven’t read a story from. No, not the Fuhrer. Death.

It is the irony of the narrator being Death that immediately drew me into the story. Seriously, if anyone can understand that time period, it would be him. Death reigned (not the Fuhrer, regardless of the man’s delusions of grandeur).

Reading the story from such a unique (and dare I say, hopeless) perspective compelled me to keep reading. By page ten, I was feeling a little sorry for Death. After all, he was overworked and saw no chance of a vacation in his future.

Blasphemous thought, isn’t it? That Death might need a vacation. Even on a regular day, thousands of people die. A day in Dachau in 1940? You get the picture.

Dachau Concentration Camp

The point of view aside, the voice is authentic. I could hear the tired sighs of Death. I could sense his amazement at the inhumanity of man to his own kind. Why should we be surprised when Death thinks murder and mayhem are socially unacceptable? After all, these things mean he has to work overtime. And he’s long overdue for a single day off.

Zusak uses unique turns of phrase in his description.  His writing has verve and pizzazz, but isn’t too sophisticated for young adult readers – his target audience.

Liesel and her supporting cast come alive. No cardboard caricatures here. Well, maybe the Hitler Youth bully and the spoiled rich criminal, but none of the major characters were anything other than round and relatable.

In the end, I cried. There’s no such thing as a happy ending from this setting. However, the overwhelming theme  and the takeaway feeling for the story pack a knockout punch. The last line of the book clues you in: “I am haunted by humans.”

Consider who tells this story and let that sink in for a few moments.



My recommendations:

  • Every person between the ages of 12 and 120 should read this book.
  • There are German words and phrases. Don’t stumble over those.
  • Death narrates, so there is death and destruction galore. It’s gasp-worthy but won’t cause you to turn away like the first ten minutes of Saving Private Ryan.
  • You will cry. Okay, I cried. Maybe you don’t cry when you read books, but if this one doesn’t choke you up, there could be a deeper issue.

Reading this book will help you appreciate the life you live. How can Death tell a story and make you want to hug everyone you know and celebrate being alive? Read. The. Book. Then you’ll understand.

Have you already read The Book Thief? Share your observations and reactions below.