Study Guide

The Book Thief Literature and Writing

By Markus Zusak

Literature and Writing

Chapter 5
Death

The book thief has struck for the first time – the beginning of an illustrious career. (5.119)

By the end of the novel, Liesel does have a career – in reading the books she steals. She wins the love of fellow Himmel Streeters by reading to them during the air raids and expresses her love for Max by reading to him when he's in a coma. When she reads to Frau Holtzapfel, she actually earns flour and coffee for Rosa.

Chapter 7
Death

Unofficially, it was called the midnight class, even though it commenced at around two in the morning. (7.30)

Liesel and Hans trade sleep for reading and writing, and the pleasure of one another's company. These activities help forge the tight bond between them.

Then they discovered she couldn't read or write. (7.25)

This is important to note, in terms of Liesel's growth and change throughout the novel.

Chapter 17
Hans Hubermann Junior

"What trash is this girl reading? She should be reading Mein Kampf." (17.31)

This is Hans Junior talking. His words give Hans the idea to use Hitler's book to help Max reach Himmel Street in safety.

Chapter 21
Death

Beneath her shirt, a book was eating her up. (21.56)

Liesel's love for books is very apparent in this moment, after she's stolen the smoldering The Shoulder Shrug from the book burning. She'd rather let it burn her skin than abandon it.

Chapter 22
Death

That such a room existed! (22.57).

This is Liesel's first glimpse of Ilsa Hermann's library. Maybe we take our libraries for granted these days. Though, still, doesn't the sight of a library fill you with a little of Liesel's wonder? No matter how common place the library may be?

Chapter 55
Death

From a Himmel Street window, he wrote, the stars set fire to my eyes. (55.78)

This is Max, writing in his scrap book, expressing how it felt to see the stars for the first time since he's come to Himmel Street. In fact, he hasn't seen anything of the outside world. The passage is an intense expression of his confined state.

Chapter 56
Death

Out of respect, the adults kept everyone quiet, and Liesel finished chapter one of The Whistler. (56.30)

Liesel is becoming "the word shaker." She's finding ways to use words for good, like here, when she comforts the people in the bomb shelter by reading to them.

Chapter 82

"I thought if you're not going to read any more of my books, you might like to write one instead. […] You can certainly write. You write well." (82.48)

This marks the moment of Liesel's transition from reader, to reader and writer.

Death

The words. Why did they have to exist? Without them, there wouldn't be any of this. Without words, the Führer was nothing. (82.28)

In this moment, Liesel is so disillusioned with the words that she tears up a book. What do you think about her statement, though. Is it true that Hitler needed words to do what he did?

Chapter 88
Death

The fingers of her soul touched the story that was written so long ago in her Himmel Street basement. (88.7)

Bet you didn't know souls had fingers. But the point is that Liesel is reunited with her book in the afterlife, when it's almost disintegrated. It makes us wonder if Liesel wrote more books after she left Himmel Street. What do you think?