The Book Thief opens in a very unique way, with the narrator, who turns out to be Death, introducing himself. At her brother's funeral, Liesel steals her first book, The Gravedigger's Handbook, accidentally dropped by a cemetery worker.
In the Prologue, the narrator of The Book Thief introduces himself as Death and reminds the reader that everyone is going to die someday; he urges the reader to not be afraid. Rosa often calls Liesel a a€?saumenscha€? (filthy pig), and she seeks comfort from Hans, now her Papa, who sits with her at night to keep away her nightmares. Death reports that Liesel stole her first book on January 13, 1939, and more than a year passed before she stole her second. Papa successfully teaches Liesel how to read, and together they finish The Gravediggera€™s Handbook. The sadness continues as Hitlera€™s birthday approaches and the German forces get ever stronger.
On the way home, Liesel can no longer take the pain of the hot book, so she takes it out and confesses to Papa that she has stolen the book. The setting shifts to a small, dark, enclosed room away from Himmel Streeta€”the place where a Jewish man named Max Vandenburg is being hidden by friends.
Back on Himmel Street, Liesel spends the summer of 1940 enjoying her reading of The Shoulder Shrug and visiting Ilsaa€™s library. Meanwhile, time has run out for Maxa€”Walter must flee the city, so he leaves Max with one last package containing shaving supplies and a train ticket. Walter Kugler arrives at the Hubermannsa€™ home and is standing in the kitchen with Hans when he asks Hans if he still plays the accordion. Death does not like mystery, so he reveals the fact that Rudy will die from a bombing and that Liesel will kiss Rudy's dusty lips as he lies in the wreckage. In Deatha€™s diary, it is 1942, and Death claims that he needed a broom or a mop that year as the war moved closer to Himmel Street. The officers talk to the Steiners in their kitchen and try to convince the family that Rudya€™s service would be an honor to the country. Meanwhile, Hans continues to feel guilty about his actions that led to Maxa€™s having to leave, and then one day his formal punishment arrivesa€”he is accepted into the Nazi Party and drafted into the army.
Liesel returns to the Hermannsa€™ home to steal another book, and once in the room, Liesel sees that Ilsa has apparently left out a plate of cookies for her. Death is always busya€”a€?the world is a factory.a€? The last fact of this story is that Liesel, the book thief, died only yesterday. The first chapter of The Prologue is titled "Death and Chocolate." This chapter serves as a very brief introduction to the story. He begins rather ominously, stating the fact that "you are going to die." As he continues, he explains some of the details of his work collecting people's souls from their bodies. Seeing this furtive deed, Death labels her "the book thief." Throughout the course of the story, Liesel steals several other books and stays true to her nickname.
Death says his job is hard and that he is saved only by having distractionsa€”he cannot stand to look at the survivors because he pities them. It is January 1939, and Liesel Meminger is riding on a train with her mother and little brother, Werner, when he falls ill and dies. On April 20, 1940a€”Hitlera€™s birthdaya€”Liesel sees a group of German soldiers burning a pile of books. Rosa has been washing and ironing clothes for several families in the area, and one by one they dismiss her services.
Soldiers now walk the streets, and the Hubermanns are afraid they will be arrested because they cannot find their flag.
He promises that he will teach her how to read it in the basement so that they are undetected.

She is afraid of being caught for her stealing, and she thinks that she is being punished for her crimes by having to go to the mayora€™s house to see about the washing. Max sits on his suitcase in the dark and waits to be given the occasional piece of bread or other provision by his friend Walter Kugler. As the summer continues and food rations become ever smaller, Rudy and Liesel take to stealing food, and the two climb a fence surrounding an apple farm to quiet their hunger. Max takes the train to Molching and arrives at Himmel Street, afraid to ask the Hubermanns to risk their lives to save his.
But for now, Death decides to detail the events leading up to the book The Whistler floating down the Amper River before Rudy jumped into the frigid water to save it. Later, while at Frau Hermanna€™s library, Liesel imagines telling her that a Jew is hiding in her basement. Rudy and his sisters play dominoes in the other room, and before Rudy can intervene, the officers leave.
Liesel lived to a very old age; her long life carried her far away from Himmel Street in Molching, Germany, to Sydney, Australia.
Most of the time, Death does not take too much notice of humans or their lives on earth, but occasionally, a soul here or there piques his interest. After the funeral, Liesel says goodbye to her mother, and travels to the home of Hans and Rosa Hubermann, a middle-aged couple who take her in, and play the role of her foster parents.
He introduces the story to come as one that will be about a girl, words, an accordionist, fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist fighter, and thievery. The family exits the train and buries Werner in a nameless town in the presence of a priest and two grave diggers. For Christmas that year, Papa gives Liesel two more books: Faust the Dog and The Lighthouse.
The Hubermannsa€™ son, Hans Junior, comes for a visit and accuses his father of never supporting the Nazi party.
Liesel tells Mama that no one is ever home, butA Mama keeps sending Liesel back to the house. It takes a long time, but Walter finally arrives with a bag of bread, fat, and carrots and a bottle of water. It was during the war when Hans was twenty years old that Death first ran across Hansa€™s path. It is winter, and she carries down buckets of snow to Max so that they can make a snowman and have a snowball fight. At school, Rudy and his classmates are stripped naked and inspected by a nurse who exclaims that Germany is creating a new generation of physically and mentally advanced citizens. Hans, a good-natured, kind man, earns a living painting houses and stores; in his spare time, he plays the accordion for pay. Liesel and her mother then board another train heading for Munich, where Liesel will meet her foster parentsa€”her mother can no longer care for her. While eating in the kitchen, Liesel asks Papa how he managed to afford the books, and Rosa, whom Liesel now regards as Mama, tells her that Hans traded cigarettes with a gypsy to buy the books. Soon after, Hans goes to the recruitera€™s office to sign up for military service so that his family is not suspected of being against the Nazi regime, and he is given a tattered copy of Hitlera€™s Mein Kampf. Finally, the mayora€™s wife, Ilsa Hermann, opens the door on one of Liesela€™s visits, and instead of giving Liesel the washing, Ilsa invites her into the home to see the library.
He also brings a book that contains a forged identity card that Walter has secured for Max's escape.
So many young soldiers died during the war, but Hans kept himself in the middle of other men, so he never came close to dying. And while Liesel works, Rudy runs and dreams of getting four gold medals just like Jessie Owens.

Liesel realizes that the library belongs only to Ilsaa€”not to her husbanda€”and Ilsa admits that she used to read to her son in the library.
In the moments before her death, Liesel envisioned her children, her grandchildren, and all those whom she loved at one point or another in her life like the Hubermanns and her little brother. The first time is on a train where he has gone to carry away the soul of the book thiefa€™s little brother. At the station, Liesel is delivered to the authorities and taken to a small town called Molching, where the Hubermanns reside on Himmel Street. Hans is also able to trade cigarettes for eggs, which Rosa cooks while uncharacteristically singing. But her mother never replies, and Hans is so moved by the girla€™s sadness that he decides to forge a letter from her mother. During the speeches, Liesel continues to think about all the sadness in her life, and she repeatedly thinks about the word a€?Kommunisten.a€? Liesel wonders if the Fuhrer took her mother away, and she says that she hates him.
A German Jew named Erik Vandenburg taught Hans to play the accordion, and the two men became friends. The Hubermanns move Max upstairs to Liesela€™s room, taking care to avoid having anyone see him through the windows. Liesel asks Ilsa if she has read the book in her hand, and after stating that she has in fact read the book, Ilsa tells Liesel that she must hurry out the window because Rudy is waiting for her outside.
Only one person survived: Liesel had been sitting in the basement reading her life story and editing the mistakes.
Erik nominated Hans for a writing job which spared Hans from going into battle that daya€”everyone else in the troop died in battle.
Rudy claims that he is not tired, but then he false-starts the 100 meter race and is disqualified. At the beginning of the story, Liesel is on a train with her mother and brother; during the journey, Liesel's little brother dies. Liesel has nightmares every night about her brother's death; each night, to distract her from her dreams, Hans tells her stories and teaches her how to read.
The last time, the book thief stands on the rubble of her home that has been destroyed by bombs, and Death wants to comfort her. They take Liesel into their home unaware that she has already become a thiefa€”Liesel has taken The Gravediggera€™s Handbook from the scene of Wernera€™s burial.
They dug her out of the rubble as she kicked and screamed, desperately clutching the book that had saved her life. This is when Death first takes notice of her, and the rest of the novel is his narration of the succeeding years of her life.
The novel is set in Molching, Germany, where Liesel goes to live with foster parents during the war; being with her mother was not safe, since as the wife of a communist, she could also be taken away. They manage to get to the church steps and from there they watch a pile of books burn that have been set afire by the officers.
Meanwhile, Death had carried away the souls of her mama and papa and the souls of everyone else on the street.
Most of the events of the story take place in this town, with Death occasionally stepping in to provide relevant background information and stories about key characters. On the way, they pass the pile of ashen books, but Liesel sees that there are three that look virtually untouched by the flamesa€”a€?survivors.a€? Liesel snatches The Shoulder Shrug from the pile. She slips it under her uniform, and although it is cool at first, the book heats up against her skin.

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