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The Book Thief

The Book Thief

by Markus Zusak

The Book Thief Chapter 12 Summary

The Heavy Weight Champion of the School-Yard

  • Summer, 1939 goes by really fast for Liesel.
  • In September and November, two important things happen.
  • First, in the beginning of September, World War II begins. Germany invades Poland, and England and France declare war on Germany.
  • Hitler's voice is all over the radio. The news of war is all over the papers. Food and other goods are rationed.
  • Liesel is about to begin some fighting as well.
  • In spite of her recent adventures in reading, she isn't reading well in school.
  • When she becomes too disruptive in the younger kid's class, she's moved up to a class of her peers. But not without getting more than one "Watschen (pronounced 'varchen') (12.17) out in the hall. A Watschen is a beating.
  • In November, there's an oral reading exam. Sister Maria (her teacher, a nun) is calling students' names.
  • She calls Rudy and Liesel is impressed with his reading.
  • When Sister Maria doesn't call Liesel, Rudy volunteers her.
  • Sister Maria tells Rudy that Liesel isn't ready.
  • But, Liesel says she can do it.
  • When she gets to the head of the class, and looks at the page she's supposed to read from, she can't see anything at all.
  • Instead, a passage from The Grave Digger's Handbook occurs to her. It's a passage about how to bury someone when it's snowing. She recites the passage for the class.
  • Sister Maria doesn't like this at all, and Liesel gets another Watschen.
  • During the break Ludwig Schmeikl starts teasing Liesel. He asks her to help him with his reading and say, "You Dummkopf – you idiot" (12. 55).
  • Liesel grabs the book, tosses it aside, then commences to beat up Ludwig Schmeikl.
  • When she's sitting on him she says, "You Saukerl. […] You Arschloch. Can you spell Arschloch for me?" (12.62).
  • Liesel almost beats him to death.
  • At one moment, she sees Tommy Müller smiling.
  • (Tommy is the twitching boy who suffered from ear infections.)
  • She starts thrashing him, too.
  • When Sister Maria sees what's happened to Ludwig, she looks at the kids' knuckles to see who has blood.
  • When she discovers Liesel's bloody knuckles, she gives her a severe Watschen.
  • The horror of the day and the loss of her family hit Liesel hard as she's walking home with the Steiners.
  • She breaks down on the street and begins to cry.
  • It starts raining. Rudy stays with her.
  • She asks him, "Why did he have to die?" (12.82) (meaning her brother Werner).
  • Rudy can't answer her. He waits until she's done and then they walk home to Himmel Street.

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