Study Guide

The Book Thief Chapter 20

By Markus Zusak

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Chapter 20

Book of Fire

  • Liesel and Hans are walking out of the town square, but one of Hans' acquaintances stops him and asks him if he's been accepted into the Nazi party yet.
  • Meanwhile, Liesel is drawn to the big pile of burned books. It reminds her of "the road of yellow stars" (20.9) (the street of Jewish houses).
  • She watches as the men shovel the ash into carts.
  • She sees them remove "Half a red flag, two posters advertising a Jewish poet, three books, and a wooden sign with something written on it in Hebrew" (20.15). (Hebrew is the language of worship in Judaism.)
  • Liesel isn't sure why the books didn't burn—they are "survivors" (20.16).
  • The clean-up men go over to their truck, and Liesel sees her opportunity.
  • She grabs a book. It has a blue cover, and she can see the word "Shoulder." The book is still smoking.
  • Liesel stands very still and watches as the clean-up men come by. She hears footsteps, then sees the mayor in his Nazi suit. He doesn't see Liesel.
  • The book isn't quite so hot now, and Liesel puts it under her clothes, against her chest.
  • As she walks toward Hans and his acquaintance, the book starts to feel pretty warm.
  • Uh oh. She feels like someone has seen her.
  • She turns to look—it's a shadow with "fluffy hair" (20.43).
  • Liesel curses.
  • Liesel and Papa leave the square.
  • Papa notices something is wrong with Liesel.
  • For one thing, there's smoke coming out of her clothes.
  • The book under her clothes is burning her.

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