Back left
Back right

The Book Thief Movie Review

Reviewed by on Nov 08, 2013
Rating: 4 Star Rating

Kidzworld reviews the inspiring, well-acted film “The Book Thief” based upon the popular novel. A young girl reinforces the belief that the power of words can transform even the most awful of times.

By: Lynn Barker

In the late 1930’s when Hitler’s Nazi’s were taking control of the German people, a young foster child is so obsessed with her newfound ability to read that she steals/borrows books from a rich neighbor. The stories help Liesel to mentally escape the horrors of war and she inspires others to keep fighting for personal freedom. That is a true hero!

A New Home

As the Nazis spread their hate throughout Germany, 11-year-old Liesel (Sophie Nelisse) and her younger brother are given up by their mother to a foster home when she can no longer care for them. On the long journey, the brother dies. As he is buried, a gravedigger drops a book. Liesel picks it up and steals it even though she can’t read.

Liesel in the rich neighbor's libraryLiesel in the rich neighbor's library

New Parents

Friendly housepainter Hans Hubermann (Geoffrey Rush) and his seemingly mean wife Rosa (Emily Watson) have evidently only become foster parents for the money in tough times but Hans, seeing that Liesel can’t read, teaches her and they both start to read the book she stole “The Gravedigger’s Handbook”. Not the greatest first read for a tween!

Liesel reading on her stepsLiesel reading on her steps

Fitting In 

Liesel likes her foster dad who calls her “Your Majesty” but, at school the kids call her dummy because she is still struggling to read. Cute next door neighbor boy Rudy (Nico Liersch) is friendly and also has a big crush on her. They become buddies. Papa Hans creates a dictionary for Liesel by writing words on the basement walls as she learns them. Liesel starts to feel that she is at home. Even Rosa warms up a bit. Her bad nature is just a mask.

Rudy tells Liesel he likes herRudy tells Liesel he likes her

The Visitor

Max (Ben Schnetzer) a young Jewish man comes to the house for refuge. Since Hans owes the boy’s father for his life due to a wartime experience, the family hides Max in their basement, risking their lives if the Nazis find him. Max shares Liesel’s passion for books, however, so now she has someone new to talk to about this shared secret.

Writing a journalWriting a journal

The Burning and the Bombs

The Nazis start burning books in the town square. Liesel meets the local mayor’s wife IIsa when she delivers the clothes Rosa has washed to earn money. Ilsa lets her borrow books from her vast library. When Liesel no longer has an excuse to go to the house, she sneaks in the window and “borrows” them. Living under threats of Nazi terror, Liesel and Rudy survive various trials, including Hans being drafted into the war and the intention to send Rudy to a training camp for elite young Nazi soldiers.

Liesel hides a book from the NazisLiesel hides a book from the Nazis

As Bombs fall all around, a now teen Liesel keeps the locals calm by telling her own stories in the village bomb shelter. She begins writing as well as reading and, despite tragedy, continues this her entire lifetime.  

Wrapping Up

If the history books teach that all German people were evil Nazis during World War 2, The Book Thief shows you that the majority were not. Many, like Liesel and her foster family, were ordinary, poor struggling people who did the best they could to survive a horrible government. 

Young people can especially be inspired by Liesel’s story. 13-year-old Sophie Nelisse plays her with honesty and optimism in the face of terror. All actors in the film do a great job. There are funny moments in the movie as well but be ready for some sadness.

Liesel with Max and Rosa in the shelterLiesel with Max and Rosa in the shelter

We hope you have discovered the wonder of reading (maybe you started with the “Harry Potter” books?) and are still into fun and entertaining and even educational books whether you read on a Kindle/tablet or a book on paper. The Book Thief is a tribute to the courage of a young girl and the power of words and storytelling that can make tolerable the worst of evils.

Hiding in the basementHiding in the basement

What came from the novel and is kind of weird is that the story is narrated here and there by the voice of Death who is “very busy” in time of war. Death was really fascinated and touched by Liesel’s strength and determination and followed her story. Okay, weird but it works.

The film is kind of long so not for the very young but older tweens up through teens, especially those who love books, will enjoy and be touched by the story. We go 4 stars.

The Book Thief Movie Rating: 4

The Book Thief PosterThe Book Thief Poster