New Class Sets – March 2009

We have purchased lots of new class sets for the library this year. Some are multiple of copies of old favourites which have been popular with students in the past, and some are new books which promise to be future favourites.

Check out some of these:-

The book thief – Markus Zusak’s amazing story set in World War II

The book thief

By Peter Pierce
September 10, 2005

ON THEIR way to Munich in 1939 to be given up to foster parents, Liesel Meminger’s six-year-old brother dies and is buried beside the train tracks. Watching, Liesel acquires her first book – The Gravedigger’s Handbook.

It will be one of the 14 that give solace to her, an abandoned child, struggling to survive in war-time Germany. Her father has been taken away, branded communist; her mother vanishes. Watching Liesel, whom he christens “the book thief”, is the narrator of Markus Zusak’s novel of the same name.

A prize-winning children’s author, Zusak has made a daring debut as an author of adult fiction.

His narrator, who courteously introduces himself, but forbears to speak his name, is Death. His task is “handling souls to the conveyor belt of eternity” and soon he will be very busy.

It is Death who tells of Liesel’s ordeal, “just a small story really”, and of her resilience, of the moments when she almost comes within his reach.

The narrator is arch, and given to bad jokes about his profession, but he is also solicitous of his victims and wryly omnipotent. The deployment of this narrator gives to Zusak’s harrowing evocation of the terrible events of war for German civilians the ageless colours of loss.

Liesel lives with the Hubermanns in the little town of Molching, outside Munich.

Her mama, Rosa, has “a face decorated with constant fury”, while her father is the gentle house painter and accordionist, Hans. A veteran of the Great War, he is recklessly imbued with compassion for those who suffer in this one, in particular for the Jews.

Dachau is just down the road and Jews are paraded through the streets of Molching, “to concentrate”, as Death jests. They shuffle along in a ragged column, selfhood fragmenting, destruction beckoning. The eyes of one of the older men “were the colour of agony”.

The plain style of much of The Book Thief is punctuated by such vivid images. Brownshirts, members of the Nazi Party, marching through the town have “their faces held high, as if on sticks”. A soldier back from the Russian front and tormented by the death of his brother there hangs himself. He “jumped from the chair as if it were a cliff”.

On an adolescent’s face, “pimples were gathered in peer groups”. The narrator’s gaze is detached, unsparing. He points out that he does not have a sickle or a scythe, and only a hooded robe when cold. Of his own appearance, he offers this: “You want to know what I truly look like? . . . Find yourself a mirror.”

Liesel’s struggles are those of any child in such perilous times – finding enough to eat, drawing comforts from such friends as Rudy Steiner, living through the increasing raids by Allied bombers. Moreover, she is also required to help the Hubermanns protect the Jew, Max Vandenburg, who arrives in November 1940 and hides out for two years in their shallow basement. He writes and illustrates one of her books, The Standover Man.

Eventually he leaves to spare the Vandenburgs from discovery and walks away to an uncertain fate.

Thus Liesel has to acquire her books from somewhere else. She chooses the library of the mayor’s wife. This woman, a ghost and recluse since the death of her son in the last war, opens a little to life again by her complicity in Liesel’s thieving.

Her books allow Liesel to distract those who huddle in the Fiedlers’ basement during air raids. She “handed out the story” to them in instalments, not concerned about whether, or how, it will come to an end.

The Book Thief is a triumph of control, and for the most part of tact, although Death is at liberty to breach any decorum. Its oblique angle on the German homefront never exalts the courage of the young, but quietly tells of how days and months are managed.

Zusak has written, in his 30th year, one of the most unusual and compelling of recent Australian novels. He gives its last words to Death, who confesses “I am haunted by humans”. Those whom we encounter in The Book Thief have that power over the reader, too.

Peter Pierce is professor of Australian literature at James Cook University.

The arrival by Shaun Tan

The white tiger by Aravind Adiga – the winner of this year’s Booker Prize. See what the members of the First Tuesday Bookclub thought about The White Tiger on this podcast.

The absolutely true story of a part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie.

Check out the review of this book on Teen Troves 

Bookmark days by Scot Gardner. Scot is one of Woodleigh’s favourite authors and this is his latest novel for young adults.

This review is from Aussiereviews.com:-

YA Book Review: Bookmark Days, by Scot Gardner
Reviewed by Sally Murphy

Part of the Girlfriend Fiction series.

My name is Avril. This story is about me and my cousin Katie, who is from another planet. My planet is run by sheep, hers is run by fashion. You’ll also meet our families, a few horses and dogs, and one seriously hot guy.Avril Stanton lives a quiet, isolated life. She lives so far from her nearest town that she doesn’t even go to school. In between doing correspondence lessons, she helps on the family farm, with her parents, grandparents and little brother. In contrast, her cousin Katie lives in the city and always has at least one boy on the go. But in spite of their differences, the two are best friends, and Avril can’t wait for Katie’s annual visit.

But this year things are different. Katie is driving Avril crazy with her nonstop talk about boys and boyfriends. Avril has never been in love – but has just met her neighbour, Nathaniel, who would be perfect if he wasn’t a Carrington, from the one family Avril is supposed to hate. Avril finds herself jealous of Katie’s confidence and ease with boys, and wonders if their friendship is in trouble.

Bookmark Days is a story about friendship and first relationships, as well as family structure and loyalty. As Avril and Katie deal with their own problems, they are also affected by the strain between Avril’s family and the neighbouring Carringtons, a feud which spans three generations, and have to realise that insecurity and relationship problems are not just the domain of the young.

Part of the Girlfriend Fiction series, Bookmark Days Deals with issues which many teens will face, with the rural setting and city/country contrast providing a novel setting.

Bookmark Days, by Scot Gardner
Allen & Unwin, 2009

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