When Death tells you a story, you have to listen. Especially when Death is also a poet and stuck in a dead-end job from which he can never take a vacation. The story Death tells might be set in Nazi Germany and it might be about a little girl named Liesel who’s lost her brother and her world but gains another when she steals her first book and learns to read, but really, Death’s story is about words. Beautiful, colorful, healing, powerful, dangerous, murderous words. Oh, and an accordion-playing foster father. And also that part where Liesel gives a cloud to a dying man. And that passage where Death describes war, the one that gives me chills every time I read it: “I’ve seen many young men over the years who think they’re running at other young men. They are not. They are running at me.” And of course, the time when everyone in Mr. Fiedlers’ basement almost dies, but Liesel saves them all with a story. What will surprise you the most, though, is that Death loves humans. He also hates them. But mostly, he’s haunted by them.
If ever a story was a gift, this one is the sort you’d never know to ask for but would be so grateful to receive. I gave this book as a present to everyone I know for two years in a row. If you teach, do as I did and rip apart and rebuild an entire semester, just so you share this book with your students. Buy a copy for your shelf, then get one for your ereader, so you can bring it with you to bed and read just the parts you tagged with post-it notes. Beautiful, colorful, healing, powerful, dangerous, murderous words.
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