the book thief

Protection: The Treasure Box

I recently received a copy of The Treasure Box, the latest picture book from Margaret Wild and Freya Blackwood (Penguin).

As soon as I unwrapped the book, I was spellbound. Drawn in by Freya’s gorgeous illustrations, by the boy sitting quietly, an untold treasure sitting on his knees, I sighed and promised myself I’d saviour every page of this beautiful book.

The Treasure Box 1

The Treasure Box has been described as ‘haunting and beautiful’, and while it is sad (it’s probably most suitable for 7+ years and you might like to coach the kids through it a bit), it is a incredibly moving lesson about the strength of the human spirit and the importance of a person’s story, it’s importance to who they were, who they are now and who they will be…

When the enemy bombed the library, everything burned.

As war rages, Peter and his father flee their home, taking with them a treasure box that holds something more precious than jewels. They journey through mud and rain and long cold nights, and soon their survival becomes more important than any possession they carry.

But as years go by, Peter never forgets the treasure box, and one day he returns to find it.

The story, and more particularly, the ‘book as treasure’ theme, will sit well with book lovers. The solace and consolation that Peter’s precious treasure brings is touching, to say the least…

Charred paper, frail as butterflies, flutter in the wind. People caught the words and cupped them in their hands.

Only one book survived. A book that Peter’s father had taken home to study. A book he loved more than any other.

When the enemy ordered everyone out of their houses, Peter’s father brought out a small iron box. ‘This will keep our treasure safe,’ he said.

Freya’s skilful illustration is essential to the story being told. The subtle three-dimensional nature of the collaged pictures ‘includes’ the reader, drawing them into the page and bringing to life the scene in a very special way.

The Treasure Box 2

The story begins in muted tones, greys and browns and dusty blues, and brightens as the story progresses. By the close, as Peter’s treasure is rediscovered and shared, the illustrations become brighter, reds and blues and yellows communicate a new hope, brought to be in part by the protection of Peter’s book.

In short, this is a moving, inspiring book. Read it with your kids, they might need help understanding some of the sadder themes, and do so understanding that this is an important story of what it is to triumph and protect.

The Treasure Box is available in the TBYL Store now for $24.99 (plus p&h)

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Adapt and win

This week, I’ve been thinking a lot about film adaptations. There’s been chatter about the film version of The Book Thief, and the newest trailer for another adaptation of Great Expectations. Not to mention the new(ish) On The Road film I’ve still not had a chance to see…

Helena Bonham Carter, Miss HaveshamAnd so, today’s chance to enter the TBYL big book give-away is all about the silver screen, or more specifically the process of page to film.

Let us know which book-to-film adaptations you either love or loath, by emailing with the subject line SILVER SCREEN. Don’t forget to include your name and postal address in your email and let me know if you’d mind me sharing your response on Facebook.

As a little note, I’d like to thank everyone who’s entered the competition so far. Your answers have been fantastic, creative and wonderfully entertaining. My apologies if I don’t have a chance to acknowledge each message personally, there’s a lot, but rest assured I’m receiving and loving them.

Don’t hesitate to enter and spread the word, there’s just a couple more chances to enter!

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Judge a book?

I’ve taken a look at my diary and my to do list, and I’ve worked out I’ve about 15 minutes to blog. That’s not long enough for a book review, but it is enough time for a quick pic post. So, I’m timing myself, here goes…

Here’s my top five favourite book covers, and a little of the why.

I’m showing my age here, but this was one of my first favourite book covers, Z for Zachariah, by Robert O’Brien. As a young teen, this illustration gave me shivers (still does, in fact) and this book started my love affair with the post-apolyptic genre.

Next up is the cover of Still Life With Woodpecker, by Tom Robbins. Although Jitterbug Perfume is my favourite Robbins novel, this is my favourite of his covers. It’s almost like a little code-breaker for the story too. Love it!

Crazy is as crazy does, and in my opinion the cover of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, by Hunter S. Thompson sums up perfectly the crazy trip waiting for any reader brave enough to go along for the ride.

I don’t usually go in for ‘movie version’ covers, but for some reason this edition of The Colour Purple, by Alice Walker still works for me. Maybe it’s because I so enjoyed the movie as much as I enjoyed the novel. Whatever the reason, I love this cover.

Lastly, one of my most recent favourites. I know I’ve talked a lot about this book already but this cover was for me, the first sign that I would really love The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak. This illustration is hauntingly beautiful, as is the novel.

That’s my top five. This week. I reserve the right to change my mind by next week, but for now, these are the ones I love.

Do you have a favourite book cover? Do you judge a book by it’s cover?

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Perfect fit: The Book Thief

Every now and then you find a book that’s a perfect fit, a book that’s just right, a book that you want to re-read almost as soon as you’ve finished the last page.

For me, Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief was just such a book – it is easily now in my top five.

I had my suspicions from the beginning, from the cover design, the weight of the book, the font – that this was going to be a book that fit me well. This suspicion was confirmed early:

“HERE IS A SMALL FACT…You are going to die”

“I am in all truthfulness attempting to be cheerful about this whole topic, though most people find themselves hindered in believing me, no matter my protestations. Please, trust me. I most definitely can be cheerful. I can be amiable. Agreeable. Affable. And that’s only the A’s. Just don’t ask me to be nice. Nice has nothing to do with me.”

I was hooked. With this we meet the narrator of this perfect, horrifying tale; Death.

You might think that the choice of Death as storyteller would make for a terribly dark affair, but, as he says himself, he is in fact quite amiable. For this story, his omnisciences is required and his practical approach to departure is reassuring, in a pragmatic, yet moving way:

“I could introduce myself properly, but it’s not really necessary. You will know me well enough and soon enough, depending on a diverse range of variables. It suffices to say that at some point in time, I will be standing over you, as genially as possible. Your soul will be in my arms. A colour will be perched on my shoulder. I will carry you gently away.”


I was of course immediately endeared to Liesel and her love affair with books and words. Her resilience and resourcefulness whilst in great peril was inspiring, and her humanity and compassion was stunning. For a girl so young, Liesel showed many enviable characteristics not the least of which was her wish to not only survive, but to live – she stole books in the same way that she stole food – and for similar reasons. It was not enough for Liesel to simply feed her body, even in an environment of violence and oppression, the need to feed her appetite for words and ideas was ever present.

I should say though, that my attraction to this book was about more than just the plot. Liesel’s story is very moving, but it’s not all that makes this book so special. In my opinion, The Book Thief is as much about how the story is told, as it is about the story itself. It is poetically told, it ebbs and flows like music. It is skillful prose, and it’s quiet intensity makes the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. Markus’ story made me shiver, cry, smile.

It was amazing to read a book that was so carefully put together, one that was so conscious of its pace and rhythm. I’ve read a lot of good stories over the last few years, but few that have been written so beautifully.

“Steadily, the room shrank, till the book thief could touch the shelves within a few small steps. She ran the back of her hand along the first shelf, listening to the shuffle of her fingernails sliding across the spinal cord of each book. It sounded liked an instrument, or the notes of running feet.”

It goes without saying, that I would recommend this book wholeheartedly.

Have you read The Book Thief? What did you think?

Buy your own copy of The Book Thief, at the TBYL Store!

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