The Book Thief*
by Markus Zusak (2005)
Great book. Beautiful, simple, touching book.
Very rarely do I want to start a book over as soon as I finish it, but this one is on that special list. Narrated respectfully by Death, the collector of souls kept extremely busy by Hitler and WWII, it is the story of a girl who loses and gains everything. She knows death and loss from the beginning, but through a new family, friends, and a Jew hidden in the basement we are shown the strength of love, hope, and doing what is right. It is not always a happy book, and it certainly isn't a traditional happy ending, but it brings attention to what is truly important.
I really liked the use of art in the story, the pages of illustrations that show us Max's book, not just tell us about it. Students could make their own nook/graphic novel with old books.
My 15 year old loved it, my 12.75 year old will read it next. It's not an easy book for every reader, but it's not difficult either. Beyond the Holocaust connection there can be discussions of family, loyalty, risk, and the power of words/books.
*I have found that in the 20+ times I have written the title of this book in various places over the past 2 weeks, I have spelled the word "thief" correctly exactly once. Well, twice, since I just spelled it right in that last sentence, but that was 'cause I was really, really concentrating.