A Second World War drama for older children, based on the novel by Markus Zusak, this is the story of young Liesel (Nelisse), who is taken to live with foster parents in 1939 Germany. Her new home is run by tough Rosa (Watson) and her kindly husband Hans (Rush), who teaches Liesel to read, sparking a love of books that leads her to steal into the home of a local rich family who have a whole library of them. The war is not far away, however, and it ends up at their front door when Hans agrees to shelter a young Jewish man in the family basement.
Part war story, part coming of age movie (Liesel makes friends with the local boy next door) and part weepie, this is melodramatic in places – and the narration by Death himself doesn’t work – but is made watchable by the performances of the leading actors, Rush, Watson and especially young Nelisse, whose impassioned face grips you from the first moment you see it on screen (shame her hair is so perfectly shiny and wavy, even when the rest of her is grubby and bedraggled, though). One for children not quite ready for more graphic war dramas such as Schindler’s List.
Is The Book Thief suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...
Aimed at older children, this does have scenes that under-10s may find upsetting, including the 1938 Kristallnacht, when Nazis pulled people into the street and kicked them as they lay on the ground.
There is also a scene featuring the death of main characters, buried under rubble, which may disturb younger viewers.