The Book Thief Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of The Book Thief

Liesel Meminger is a ten year old German girl who loses her entire family at the beginning of World War II and she is forced by circumstances to live with foster parents in a small town called Molching. Liesel's father was taken away under the suspicion that he was a communist. The mother, being afraid that they will come for her too, decides to take her two children, Liesel and her brother Werner, to a good foster family near Munich. Unfortunately, Werner dies during the trip and he is buried in a cemetery near a train station. Liesel doesn't know how to read or write but she is fascinated by a small book that she finds in the snow near her brother's grave and she takes the little volume with her. The narrator of Liesel's story is an unusual character named Death.
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Liesel and her mother arrive on Himmel Street and meet Rosa and Hans Hubermann. The foster parents are simple, honest, poor people but Liesel is so scared and sad that she refuses to get out of the car. Rosa drags her out and forces her to take a bath and Liesel's mother leaves. The girl feels abandoned but Hans Hubermann is a good man and Liesel likes him. He plays the accordion and he stays by her bedside every night because the girl has terrible nightmares about her brother's death. Night after night Hans is teaching Liesel how to read and this way he is also protecting her against the nightmares. He is drawing letters on small pieces of paper and then he uses the wall to make her visualize the letters.
Liesel helps Rosa to do the laundry for the rich people of the town and she hates it when Rosa drags her along to deliver the washed clothes. She likes to play football and she meets a boy named Rudy Steiner. They become best friends.
When the war begins, Liesel and Hans are present to a public book burning and she steels an almost destroyed book from the pile. Liesel knows how to read and she displays her progress at school by reading out loud to her class. Hans buys Liesel two books and offers them to her as a Christmas present.
Liesel delivers the laundry to the mayor's wife and she sees the huge library of the house. She decides to check it out and she ends up stealing a book. She is ashamed and afraid that the mayor's wife will report her and that Rosa will lose yet another customer. The mayor's wife gives Liesel permission to visit her library and offers her a book instead of reporting her and Liesel is astonished.
Max is a Jew and he is hiding from German authorities. He left his family behind because he was afraid for his life. He spent months in confined places and he decided to find Hans and ask for his help. Hans was Max's father's friend. Hans and Rosa are extremely anxious about hiding Max in their house but they are good people and decide to take a chance. Max stays in the basement and sometimes he sleeps in Liesel's room because the basement is too cold. Liesel and Max become friends and he writes a book for her because he doesn't have a Christmas present to offer. The book is written over Hitler's book, Mein Kampf, and it contains Max's life story. Max gets very sick and he doesn't wake up for several weeks. The whole family is extremely worried. The war is upon them and the bombs are killing people all over the area. People are gathering in deep basements and Liesel is reading them from her books during the air aids.
Hans feeds a passing Jew that is taken to Dachau and he is seen by the authorities. He is afraid that his house will be searched and Max leaves because he is afraid that he is about to be discovered by the authorities. Rudy is about to be taken away to be trained by the Gestapo but his father pleads and he is taken instead. Hans is taken away also but he returns after a while because he was injured in an accident. Unfortunately Liesel's whole family dies during a night air raid and she is left alone among the rubble of their house. Liesel sees Rudy's dead body and she kisses him. Ilsa, the mayor's wife takes care of her for a while and then she gets along by herself. She meets Max at the end of the war. Liesel moves to Australia and has a good life. She dies in Sydney.
Best part of story, including ending: I liked Liesel's hunger for books and the fact that she was willing to steal some reading material just to satisfy her curiosity and her passion.

Best scene in story: I liked the scene where Rudy and Liesel are fighting to save a precious book from the river. Rudy almost drowns in the attempt.

Opinion about the main character: I liked Liesel determination to learn how to read and her friendship with Max impressed me the most.

The review of this Book prepared by Andreea Lupei a Level 5 American Goldfinch scholar

The Book Thief follows the journey of Liesel Meminger, a young girl who's coping with the loss of her family and the sudden "adoption" into her foster family during WW II. Shortly after being taken in by her foster family, the family decides to hide a Jew, Max, from the Nazi's. Liesel is hesitant at first but slowly befriends Max, bonding over their shared loss of family.
Liesel's act in stealing books is a form of rebellion, against her life, the state of politics and the way things are headed.

Best part of story, including ending: The narrator is death, and he can be extremely reliable and unreliable at the same time. Death is also very sympathetic to those he ferries, and has an interesting sense of humor.

Best scene in story: When Liesel sees Max marching in a Nazi death march, she breaks down and cries. Her innocence juxtaposed with the cruelty of the act is heartbreaking.

Opinion about the main character: Her innocence compared to the atrocities of the Nazi's makes it easier to like her. She is alone and vulnerable but is also able to be headstrong and independent.

The review of this Book prepared by Chloe a Level 1 Blue Jay scholar

Chapter Analysis of The Book Thief

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Plot & Themes

Tone of book?    -   thoughtful Time/era of story    -   1930's-1950's Is this an adult or child's book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book War/Revolt/Disaster on civilians    -   Yes Conflict:    -   Holocaust

Main Character

Gender    -   Female Profession/status:    -   student    -   thief/con artist Age:    -   a kid Ethnicity/Nationality    -   German Unusual characteristics:    -   Extremely cynical or arrogant


How much descriptions of surroundings?    -   3 () Europe    -   Yes European country:    -   Germany Misc setting    -   moving train

Writing Style

Amount of dialog    -   roughly even amounts of descript and dialog

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Markus Zusak Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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