Monday, June 18, 2012

Debate: The Book Thief


I'm doing something (hopefully) interesting today. I'm posting both at Project Middle Grade Mayhem, and at Young Adult Confidential, arguing that The Book Thief is both a MG and a YA Novel.

Why, you ask? Because. Because it's a question that ran through my head while I was reading it, and because it's an important conversation to have about books. So please visit, read and comment.

And you'll notice I did some interesting things with the posts too. Like featuring two different covers of the book (three if you count this post). Anyway, go on, click those links and let us know what you think!

21 comments:

Donna K. Weaver said...

*heading over*

Christine Danek said...

I'll check it out. I still have to read this book, though. Thanks.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I haven't read the book. Off to check out your post.

Suzie F. said...

Great topic, Matt! This is one my favorite books.

L.C. Frost said...

Gahhhh, why haven't I read this book. *hangs head in shame* Will check out your posts when I read it, though--sounds like a very interesting argument.

A. Lockwood said...

I think it's more MG. In addition to the reasons you mentioned in your post, a few things come to mind:

-The narrator uses a direct address to the audience. My experience has been that direct address is more common in MG.

-The narrator has a very innocent voice. He's still trying to figure out the world, and why and how it works. Though the subject matter is deep, the way it is approached feels more like MG.

-I'd say that death (little "d," ie not the narrator) is treated as sad but not scary. Death (big "d," the narrator) is treated as someone who just wants to have a conversation. That enables younger readers to think about the subject of death a little more easily.

But, as has been mentioned, the book can touch readers of all ages. I don't tend to like MG, so the voice and style grated on me a little in the beginning, but the story overall (and the quality of the writing) kept me reading. In the end I cried for a long time, and I almost never cry over books. So... maybe in the end it's an adult book disguised as a children's book.

Carolyn Abiad said...

Ohhh! I <3 a debate! :)

Carolyn Abiad said...

Ohhh! I <3 a debate! :)

Kimberly Gabriel said...

Ooh - I'm hooked...this is my all time FAVORITE book! However, as a seventh grade teacher, very few of my kids like it....I could talk about this topic all day long...

Sarah Ahiers said...

i just read The Book Thief a few weeks ago. God i bawled for like a good hour.

Cassie Mae said...

Heading over!

Andrew Leon said...

Left a comment over there somewhere.
>waves hand vaguely<

Michael G-G said...

This is the cover of the edition I read.

I left a lengthy comment on Project Mayhem, so I won't repeat myself here. But I would love to hear what Kimberly Gabriel (above) has to say--and anyone else who has tried to use this novel as a text in school.

Colene Murphy said...

Oh neat! Heading over!

Scribbles From Jenn said...

Loved The Book Thief! Read it to my then middle grader, but I agree, parts of it were more Y.A. Heading over to check out your posts.

Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

Oh you clicky devil you.

M said...

I started to read the book and couldn't get nterested. Then a friend who I respect said to give it another try because it was her favorite book. I did and was so glad I stuck to it. A very good read-

Donna Hole said...

I love a good debate - even with myself, lol.

........dhole

Christina Lee said...

and it's adult in New Zealand, right?! Or is the author from Australia? OR do I need more coffee?

TL Conway said...

Love this book, HARD. And I think the debate you set up is awesome. The posts AND the comments. Very interesting. Thanks for doing this!

lunievicz.com said...

Matt, this is a fascinating topic and one I've been giving more and more thought to in terms of my son and what he reads (he's 10). The two different takes on the two sites is brilliant and really points out the challenge of labelling a book.

The simple guideline for parents (as if anything about being a parent is simple) is to read what your child wants to read as a check before he reads - that is assuming you have the time to read all a voracious reader reads (I can't keep up - he reads five to my one book).

So what does it mean to be MG and YA? Marketing? Yes. But some marketing is good, isn't it? Young people can look at the label and at least get some idea where to look for appropriate reading material. Will they do that? I think to some extent some do.

Maybe it's more to parents than kids then. "Parents, go over here!" MG and YA dictates.

I haven't read The Book Thief, not yet. I'm preparing myself for the difficult (for me) content. So I can't tell which side to come in on for this book, but the idea of placing a book in MG or YA based on the age of the narrator simple doesn't always work, as you show so clearly. It's not about the age of the protagonist, it's about the content that is being covered. And I don't think there's any one way to satisfy everyone with that - especially when the curses are in German. Would it have been simpler to label if the curses were all in Englilsh? Look at our movie ratings: G, PG, PG13, R - do they work or have you been stymied by a movie with serious content well above a PG (or G - oh thank you Disney and parent-killing-off opening plot moves) rating that you regretably took your child to see?

I guess it all comes down to looking at these as guidelines rather than rules. Guidelines are permeable and flexible but give you a sense of what to expect while rules say it must be like this or like that. Anything that is subjective, such as art and entertainment probably needs guidelines ... with further exploration needed.