I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak ISBN: 0375830995
Plot Summary: Ed’s first good deed is when he helps to stop a bank robber. After that, he starts getting Aces in the mail with cryptic instructions for who to help next. Couple that with a couple of thugs that occasionally visit to rough Ed up and make sure he completes the tasks, long hours driving a taxi, his smelly and emotive dog, and being love with his best friend, Audrey, and you’ve got Ed’s life as it has become. Completing the tasks feels mostly good, allowing him to meet a sweet old lady who just needs company or unite two brothers, but Ed has no idea who is sending him these playing cards and he’s not sure he’d like the reason behind them.
Critical Evaluation: Though not nearly as powerful a read as “The Book Thief,” this is still a well written and enjoyable story. When we meet Ed, he seems perfectly content with the way his life is. He lives in a tiny house, drives a taxi underage, and spends lazy nights playing cards with his similarly low achieving friends. But he feels worthless, and simultaneously unable to change that. The cards, accompanied by the thugs sort of force him to take action. Character development is very clearly supposed to be a focus of this book, with both Ed and the people he helps growing as people throughout the story. It’s not often that you read a book where nearly all the characters do that. I especially liked a scene with Ed and Audrey’s boyfriend. This is a guy that Ed has looked down on somewhat because of who he is to Audrey, but here you see each tentatively trying to understand the other.
The other element that caught my attention is the rising action of the story. There are slower moments of the book, but these are nicely interspersed between sequences that are faster paced and even gripping. I think this story is well suited to a lot of action because, though there is a climax to the story, and somewhat of an escalating of tasks, Ed has exciting adventures throughout the story. All of these individual stories he becomes involved in coalesce and escalate into the final mission, which is both to find out who is behind these playing cards, and how to improve his life long term. Even after the action has slowed, the resolution was still satisfying to me because there are many personal elements for Ed to work out. I got a good mix of answers to all my questions, but also an understanding that the story would continue to progress and change after the book ended.
Reader’s Annotation: Someone is sending Ed Aces in the mail with lists of people that need help in some way. Who is sending these messages, and what do they want with Ed?
Information about the author: Markus Zusak was born in 1975 in Sydney, Australia. He is the author of numerous books, most notably “The Book Thief.” This book, “I am the Messenger” was published in 2002.
His first three books were all published in Australia and garnered a number of awards there. “The Book Thief” topped bestseller lists all over the world. “I am the Messenger” won the 2003 CBC Book of the Year Award (Older Readers) and the 2003 NSW Premier’s Literary Award (Ethel Turner Prize), as well as receiving a Printz Honor in America. Markus continues to live in Sydney, Australia.
Curriculum ties, if any: None in particular.
Booktalking Ideas: I would emphasize the friendship in this story, because it adds humor to the story. This is particularly good for boys who enjoy mysteries, as I think they will identify with Ed, and maybe understand the involvement of violence more.
Reading Level/Interest Age: The main character is 19 in this book, and already has a full time job and an apartment. Teens should still enjoy the mystery, and that, even though he is older than them, he doesn’t have his life figured out either.
- Sexual situations
- First, I would want to be familiar with book. As I’ve read this book, I’d be aware of potential issues that could be challenged. In the case of a book I had not read, I would want to have access to reviews.
- Then I would put together a rationale for why this book is included in the collection. This rationale would include:
- Bibliographic Citation of the book.
- A description of who the book is best suited for.
- A summary of the book and applicable other information, such as biographical information about the author.
- My justification for including the book. This would include how it fits in with the selection policy and library mission statement, and include its educational significance if applicable or the impact it could have on readers.
- Copy of selection policy and library mission statement at my library.
- ALA Library Bill of Rights
- Good and bad reviews of the book
- Alternative works a student could read
- Reconsideration form if patron is not satisfied with rationale
- When talking to patron, I would listen to their concerns without getting on the defensive and attempt to sympathize with their concerns. In some cases, all an upset patron needs is to be able to vent and know that someone is listening to them.
- If needed, I would send the challenge up the chain of command.
The violence is somewhat important to the storyline because it makes Ed’s actions more impressive. The ultimate theme of doing good things for others should make up for that. As for the language, I believe that it makes the book more believable and authentic.
Why did you include this book? : I read The Book Thief and really enjoyed it, and wanted to try something else by him. This was also the first mystery I read for the class.
Biography for Markus Zusak. Goodreads. Retrieved from http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/11466.Markus_Zusak