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Zusak’s ‘The Book Thief’ chosen for One Book, One Chicago

The cover 'The Book Thief' by Marcus Zusak.

The cover of "The Book Thief" by Marcus Zusak.

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Updated: November 29, 2012 1:44PM

Australian writer Markus Zusak’s 2006 novel, “The Book Thief” — a dark, complex tale, set in a German town as the Holocaust is unfolding, has been named the One Book, One Chicago selection for fall 2012.

In conjunction with the selection, Zusak, whose book uses the figure of Death as a narrator, and follows the development of a young girl who discovers the power of words, as well as deeds to generate both good and evil, will visit the Chicago Public Library and participate in events with teachers, librarians, high school students and the wider public. In addition, Steppenwolf Theatre will produce a stage adaptation of “The Book Thief,” to be adapted by Heidi Stillman (who recently helped craft the scenario for Lookingglass Theatre’s “Cascabel”), and directed by Hallie Gordon, as part of its Steppenwolf for Young Adults Program. The show will run Oct. 16-Nov. 11.

The multifaceted One Book, One Chicago project will serve as just one component in a season-long citywide project, “Now Is the Time” (NITT), that will include the joint efforts of the Chicago Public Library, Steppenwolf and Facing History and Ourselves, the international education organization devoted to history and civic behavior. The goal is to “initiate a citywide conversation about making positive change in our communities to stop the trend of youth violence and intolerance,” according to an official press statement.

In addition to Steppenwolf, more than 15 Chicago theater companies will participate in the campaign, each pledging to focus their 2012-2013 season programming on issues of youth violence while presenting productions, panel discussions and teen-centered community events in conjunction with NITT. A youth council will be drawn from teen members at each participating theater company.

Kicking off the project will be Facing History and Ourselves’ free multimedia exhibit, “Choosing to Participate,” running Aug. 27-Nov. 11 at the Harold Washington Library Center. It is designed to encourage young people to recognize the importance of a democratic society through installations about people whose stories illustrate courage, initiative and compassion and will include a display about “local unsung heroes making a difference in Chicago.”

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