As I sort through my research and attempt to put into stories the events of 1939-1945, I find myself reading and rereading books about that time. I am fascinated by the massive jigsaw puzzle that was World War II. No one was left unaffected by it, and there are millions, billions of collected fragments and stories from these insane years. Markus Zusak, author of The Book Thief, put so clearly into words the immense beauty and ugliness of this time period. Most notably the author of The Book Thief, a Printz Honor Book, Zusak has also written The Underdog, Fighting Ruben Wolfe, When Dogs Cry, and I am the Messenger.
Zusak was born in Sydney, Austrailia, in 1975. He is one of four children. He studied English and History at the University of New South Wales. He taught at Engadine High School after graduating. His first novel, The Underdog, took seven years to publish.
The Book Thief spent 375 straight weeks on the New York Times Best Seller List. The book is set in Nazi Germany and is, appropriate to the time, narrated by the character Death. Zusak’s mother Lisa is originally from Germany, and his father Helmut is from Austria. Both moved to Australia in the 1950s. In an interview with Random House Kids, Zusak says, “I was inspired to write The Book Thief because of memories sitting in my kitchen when I was a kid hearing stories my parents told me. It was like, we were all glued to our seats hearing stories of bombings in Munich and Austria.”