So here's the scoop on this book: It's narrated by Death (yeah, really. And he is quite the story-teller, I can assure you). It takes place in Nazi Germany, when Hitler is gaining power and support, and Jews were hunted. (Gulp. Personal subject, since I'm a Jew myself. I remember going to Israel last summer on my Taglit trip, and going to the Holocaust memorial. Just breaks my heart... !,!)
A 10-year old girl, Liesel, is sent away to live with a foster family, because her poor mother can't take care of her anymore. It takes getting used to, but eventually she adapts to life with her new family. Her foster dad is a wonderful character; you like him right from the start. Her new mom is a more complex kind of person. She acts pretty mean, but as the story goes on, you see that she's really got a big heart. I also love the character of her best friend, Rudy Steiner, the boy next door. During the course of the book, Liesel learns to read, she begins stealing books from the mayor's library, and her family takes in an escaped Jew named Max (for complicated reasons).
It is a wonderful coming of age story. It will no doubt make my list of "Ten Best Books of 2011" at the end of the year. One of the best things about this book is that it teaches you a few interesting words in German, so it's slightly educational. Another special thing I discovered, when I was more than halfway into the book, is that... I am a fictional character! The boy Rudy has a 5-year-old sister named BETTINA! She is mentioned a few times as a very minor, throw-away character... But still!!!