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Book Club Kits: The Book Thief

Alamance County Public Libraries offer Book Club Kits for check out to area book clubs. Each kit contains 10 copies of a book and a reading guide.

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Book Summary

It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .

Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.

This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.

Read an excerpt from the novel.

Discussion Questions

  • What did you think about Death as the narrator? Did his observations add to or detract from the story for you? Do you think he is a sympathetic character?

  • What are Death’s feelings for each victim? Describe Death’s attempt to resist Liesel. Death states, “I’m always finding humans at their best and worst. I see their ugly and their beauty, and I wonder how the same thing can be both.” What is ugly and beautiful about Liesel, Rosa and Hans Hubermann, Max Vandenburg, Rudy Steiner, and Mrs. Hermann? Why is Death haunted by humans?

  • Why does Death say that he is “haunted by humans?” What does that mean?

  • Did it bother you that Death periodically “spoils the plot,” by revealing to readers that something bad is about to happen? Why do you think the author had his narrator give the story away?

  • Why does Liesel steal The Grave Diggers Handbook when she can’t even read it? Why does she think she needs to hide it at the Hubermann’s house?

  • Describe Hans and Rosa Hubermann. Why did they take Liesel in?

  • Liesel and Hans bond pretty quickly, but it takes longer for Liesel to warm up to her foster mother. What changes her opinion of Rosa Hubermann?

  • Compare and contrast the lives of Liesel and Max Vandenburg. How does Max’s life give Liesel purpose? At what point do Liesel and Max become friends? Max gives Liesel a story called “The Standover Man” for her birthday. What is the significance of this story?

  • Describe Liesel’s friendship with Rudy. How does their friendship change and grow throughout the novel? Death says that Rudy doesn’t offer his friendship “for free.” What does Rudy want from Liesel?

  • Abandonment is a central theme in the novel. How does Liesel equate love with abandonment? At what point does she understand why she was abandoned by her mother? Who else abandons Liesel in the novel?

  • Courage is another important theme in this book. Which of the characters do you think showed the most courage? Why?

  • The night Liesel visits Frau Hermann’s library and destroys a book, she is angry at the words. She thinks, “without them, there wouldn’t be any of this. Without words, the Fuhrer was nothing. There would be no limping prisoners, no need for consolation or worldly tricks to make us feel better. What good were the words?” What does she mean? What is the author trying to say about the power of books?

The Book Thief Movie

The Book Thief on IMDB.

Check the catalog for availability: The Book Thief [videorecording DVD]