The Book Thief

Written by Role Mommy Contributor, Kristin Flannery

The Book Thief, based on the beloved bestselling novel, is a deeply , moving movie which tells the inspiring story of a spirited and courageous young girl named Liesel, who transforms the lives of everyone around her when she is sent to live with a foster family in World War II Germany. Rolemommy sat down with Director Brian Percival (best known for directing PBS’ Downton Abbey) and Author Markus Zusak to discuss taking a novel to film.
The story and its characters sprang from the imagination of author Markus Zusak
whose novel The Book Thief was published in his native Australia in 2005 and throughout the rest of the world in 2006. The book has sold eight million copies worldwide, held a place on The New York Times best-seller list for almost seven years and has been translated into over 30 languages. Rolemommy correspondent, Kristin Flannery, was actually introduced to the novel by her niece when she read it in high school on her reading list. So we were wondering, how does an author write such an incredible book and how does he channel the character of death?
Markus opened up to us about how listening to his parents’ stories helped him create such rich characters, “I don’t know to tell you the truth. I don’t know anything anymore. I think a different version of me wrote that book. I couldn’t write it again now. To me, it all started with my childhood, growing up in Sydney, beautiful sunshine. And then, you come in and it’s like a piece of Europe came into our house, and my parents told their stories, and they’re amazing stories about cities that were burning, kids who were giving bread to prisoners on their way to camps and getting whipped for it and so on. I grew up hearing these stories over and over again.”
Being a parent means that you take a different look at your own parents’ history and how they lived. Markus believes, “Just, don’t be afraid to tell the stories again and again and again, because I’ve realized now that my mom is 76-years-old and she still cleans people’s houses for a living. My dad was a housepainter and he still paints. He painted my house. He didn’t do a very good job the last time. His eyes are getting a bit shot. But that’s funny, a housepainter, a housecleaner, and there they were telling me their stories of growing up and I realized they weren’t only telling me about their lives. They were teaching me how to write. Talk about you would never imagine that people in those professions would give you a career in literature, but that’s exactly how I grew up.”
Being a Director on a film based off of a novel has it’s challenges, what do you keep in and what gets cut? Director Brian Percival took us through the process, “Well, you know, a lot of decisions had been done already by the time I got this because the screenplay had been in existence for about six to seven years before the time was right to make it because it was done quite early on. For the producers it was a labor of love. It really was. It was a very important project to them, and they were emotionally attached to it. And so, the time was right for them to make it and fortunately, I was in the right place at the right time. I read the screenplay, and I’d never ever read anything like it. I wasn’t–shamefully I wasn’t aware of the book. I stayed up really late. I was shooting something else, and I stayed up really late one night and then finished at 1:30 in the morning and just e-mailed off to Los Angeles and said, “You know, if I don’t do anything else in my life, I’ve got make this film.” So a lot of those decisions had been made. When it actually comes to make the film, obviously I get pictures in my head of how I want it to look, but we’ve got a 580 page guidebook on how to make the film. We never really wanted to come away from Markus’ vision and his message. We just wanted it to reach a wide variety and to be in a different medium.”
There’s some really beautiful contrasts in the movie. Like, there’s that scene where–the choir scene–and they all look so angelic and they’re so proud. Then they start sort of the second verses, and they’re horrible. Was there a scene anytime in the shooting where you kind of felt this is it, this is the most surreal?
Brian reflected, “No. I mean, not particular. See, the film is full of contrast. That was always my intention. But you see the innocence of those children. They’re singing something so proudly that they think is so beautiful. And then, you see–we’re given the brutality of the truth of what actually happened. But there’s contrast right the way through. When you see Rudy in a Nazi uniform, part of you is saying, “Oh, what a cute kid,” and the other part’s going, “Oh, he’s–but he’s becoming a Nazi.” In a lot of films Nazis are always being portrayed as generally I think one dimensional. They’re evil guys with the blonde hair and the chiseled jaw or whatever. And we get the teacher that comes to take Rudy to the camp for elite training. He looks incredibly tough, but he’s actually a bit stupid. There were always things in there that I tried to create contrasts and that was the important thing to me. I had to work on more than one level so that we would see something and then we would actually question it.”
You know that a novel is amazing when you are sad at the end because you want to know more. Did the story end for you at the end of book or do you know what happened to all the characters after? Do you know how Liesel finds growing up and what Max did for a living?
book thief author and director.JPG Turns out that we are not the only ones who want to know what happens beyond the pages. Markus has fans all over the world, “Someone came up to me. A few people have said, “I really wanted to know what happened between them. I feel like I just cut to the end of her life.” I’m like, “How long did you want the book to be?” It’s like 500 pages. Just make me write another 3,000 pages while we’re at it. So, I always imagine that Max goes his way and Liesel goes her way, but they have this kindred relationship their whole lives, but that is just me. Everyone else has their own take, but I have several reasons why.”
Even Director Brian Percival has his thoughts on the ending, “That’s part of the beauty of it for me is that we leave the reader or the audience to make up their own mind and that’s ultimately satisfying.”
Book Thief can be seen currently in theaters but to see more clips and information, log on to www.thebookthief.com

Tips for Staying Healthy Through The Holiday Season

MommyCoach Logo.png
Plan Non-Food-Centered Activities: Take the focus off food. There are so many ways to spend time together besides cooking, baking, and eating. Instead of decorating cookies and gingerbread houses, make non-edible crafts like wreaths, paper snowflakes, or holiday cards. Bundle up to take a walk around the neighborhood and rank the best decorated houses. And light a fire to gather around while you play charades or watch holiday movies.
Bring Snacks To The Mall: Welcome to the real jungle. There’s no denying how tempting it is seeing peppermint mochas or smelling cinnamon rolls (from a mile away, no less). And with the stress of the crowds and finding the right gifts for everyone, you can be in over your head fast. You have to be smart enough to sidestep these hazards. The easiest way to make it out alive? Pack filling healthy snacks like nuts, a piece of fruit, or a bag of air popped popcorn, and you won’t need a search and rescue team to pull you out of the food court.
Make Your Own Hot Chocolate: Ditch the packaged powders and go for the real thing. Many hot chocolate powders are convenient and boast very few calories, but they are chock full of artificial sweeteners and chemicals! Our recipe uses maca, a powder grown in the Andes Mountains of Peru and packed with nutrients, and cacao powder, a less-processed version of cocoa powder that’s a great source of antioxidants. Spend a cozy afternoon in the kitchen with your kids and cuddle up in with this super food hot chocolate recipe.
Boil water or warm milk on the stove and let cool slightly, then mix in the following ingredients:
-2 tablespoons raw cacao powder

-2 teaspoons maca powder

-1 tablespoon coconut sugar

-1 teaspoon honey
-Pinch sea salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and pure vanilla
-1 ½ cups milk of your choice or water
Be Mindful of Your Hunger Quotient: Your HQ is a measure of how hungry you are at a given time – famished, satisfied, stuffed. Try to be in tune with your HQ and let hunger dictate when you eat (versus having a serving of stuffing just because your sister brought it over). On a scale of 1-10 (1 being stuffed, 10 being famished), you want to be between a 4 (slightly hungry) and a 6 (slightly satisfied) all the time.
How To Curb Cravings At Holiday Parties:
Don’t Go To a Party Hungry: One of the biggest mistakes I see during the holidays is people arriving to parties starving! It’s easy to think that the less you eat earlier in the day, the more room you’ll have to eat later at the party…and the less damage you’ll do overall. But this mindset has disaster written all over it! Instead, think this way: ruin your appetite. Have a healthy, filling snack before the party so that you won’t be tempted to dive into the spinach and artichoke dip as soon as you arrive. A hardboiled egg, a slice of turkey, or a Greek yogurt are all small but satisfying options that you can have at home prior to making your big entrance.
Bring Your Own Healthy Dish: It’s never polite to go to a party empty-handed, right? So why not bring a healthy dish you know you can rely on? Bring a salad with delicious, colorful toppings like cranberries, roasted carrots and squash. Think of it as your safety net so that you won’t have to worry if there’s nothing but diet-busters being served. We’re sure you’re not the only one who will appreciate a dish that’s (finally!) not candied, casseroled, or drowning in gravy.
Scope Out The Entire Party Spread: Once you get to the party, take your time. This is very important. It’s easy to jump at the first thing and every different thing you see. You know how it goes: there’s the cheese and crackers, then the pigs in a blanket, then the shrimp cocktail, and then all the main course dishes… And studies show people eat more when they’re offered a greater variety of foods. By taking a tour of all the food first, you won’t fall into this trap. Walk around and look at everything, deciding what’s healthiest and what you want the most. And only after you’ve seen it all should you decide what to put on your plate. That way, you can make an informed decision you’ll be proud of at the end of the night. There just may be some healthy options you want to indulge in!
Socialize (And Not Just With The Bartender!): You’re at a party. With PEOPLE. It’s not all about the food. Enjoy talking to and reconnecting with family, friends, and coworkers. If you make an effort to socialize, you’ll not only enjoy the night more, but you’ll be too preoccupied to think about that pecan pie every 2.2 seconds. A word of caution: be wary of “food pushers”, those who refuse to take “no” for an answer when offering unhealthy treats. My advice? Keep saying no, as many times as you have to. And don’t feel bad! It’s a GOOD thing that you put your health first. Just decline politely and hopefully Great-Aunt Sarah will stop trying to hand you sugar cookies.
Keri Glassman.png Keri Glassman, nationally recognized nutrition expert and co-founder of MommyCoach, has put together a couple of tips for how to stay healthy, and how to help curb your appetite. If you’re unfamiliar, MommyCoach is a new online community for moms around the country to connect with leading experts and coaches for advice, encouragement, and answers to those hard-to-crack questions.
Thumbnail image for MommyCoach Co Founders (1).jpg

Spend Your Holiday Movie Viewing on the Couch

Netflix_Web_Logo (1).jpgRecently, I was given the opportunity to become a Netflix Stream Team member. What does that mean you ask? Simple. After being sent a complimentary Apple TV video streaming device and a year membership to Netflix, I set up my TV, clicked the remote and took a trip down memory lane.
What I love most about Netflix is that I can watch TV shows and films from my past and then, after I’ve watched “The Breakfast Club” or “Pretty and Pink,” they actually start recommending films to me that I might be interested in.
My kids have also been bitten by the NetFlix bug. My daughter has been watching episodes of “Gossip Girl” non stop and I actually got my son hooked on one of my favorite shows of all time, “The Wonder Years.”
Sprinkled into the mix are also a few blockbusters that we’ve watched with my husband like “An Officer and a Gentleman,” and tear jerkers too including “Terms of Endearment” and a film with Kate Hudson that had me crying for nearly an hour called “A Little Bit of Heaven.” My daughter and I have already watched that one twice!
movies.jpg
Now that the holidays are upon us, Netflix also has a ton of offerings for families with kids of all ages. Visit the Netflix website for the latest holiday movies offered this time of year. For younger kids, you can even find a host of films you can all sing-a-long with…just take a look!
There really is something for everyone with Netflix – so before you head out to the movies, spend an evening in with your family, take a walk down memory lane or get caught up on your favorite shows. No matter how you slice it, watching Netflix with your family is pure couch potato heaven.
Disclosure: I was provided with a free Apple TV and complimentary membership to Netflix. All opinions are strictly my own.