After attending the Apache Junction Public Library book club discussion of The Book Thief I was able to make connections with other books I have been reading recently such as the book by Gail Tsukiya The Street of a Thousand Blossoms about young people growing up in Japan during World War II. A participant in the in-person book club meeting was born in Japan nine years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki and gave us her insight on civilian’s and children’s views of the aftermath of war. This showed all of us how children and adults suffered greatly from starvation and punishment in Germany and Japan during World War II when there was very little they could do to change the position of their nations’ leadership and policies.
In The Book Thief the importance of having an adult assist in learning to read, reading aloud, learning vocabulary, and writing is shown. As Liesel acquires her first book, The Gravedigger’s Handbook, after her brother is buried, her foster father begins reading the book to her at night when she awakens with nightmares. She soon acquires vocabulary and is able to move up in grade level to be with her peers. The power of reading aloud is demonstrated by the foster father as well as a Jewish refugee who stays in the family’s basement and as Liesel herself reads aloud in bomb shelters. A neighbor is attracted to the story she is reading and invites her to come to her home daily to read where Liesel gets some much needed extra food. Liesel and her friends also steal food in order to supplement the meager rations their families are given. She does suffer from her need for books when after a public book burning she returns when she thinks no one is watching and takes a smoldering book from the pile. She is later adopted by the mayor’s wife who helps her have additional books to read. In The Street of a Thousand Blossoms concerning young people in Japan during World War II, they also suffer from a lack of proper nourishment although their grandparents try as much as they can to provide food for them. Again, children have very little to say in the war policies of their country and the effects on young bodies. In The Book Thief we see how reading physically and emotionally saves a life and Liesel is able to find a home after her foster parents die in a bombing raid. I listened to both of these books which had excellent spoken word presentations. The Book Thief in particular has a skilled actor who enlivens the voices. The book does have some additional information that is left out of the movie to help readers better understand the situation of the characters. The Apache Junction Public Library book club also showed the movie. I hope that they will continue their series through the summer because right now they only have fiction and nonfiction book clubs from October through March.