The Book Thief Summary

The Book Thief Summary - Find a synopsis of this fantastic novel and links to questions and themes.



A wonderfully moving story about a child growing up in Nazi Germany.

Find out why this little girl hates Nazi Germany and why there is a jew hiding in their cellar.

Also, find out why she is a book and food thief....

And for more inspiration on questions and themes go to The Book Thief

The Book Thief Summary / Plot



The Book Thief summary of the plot is as follows:

The whole book is narrated by death, and tells the story of a 10 year old little girl called Liesel.


We first meet her on a train in 1939, with her brother and mother. She is on her way to live with  foster parents, Hans and Rosa in a small village called Molching near Munich.

It's not clear why she is being taken to live here at first but when her brother dies on route, probably due to starvation, it seems it is safer for Liesel to live elsewhere.

At the funeral on a cold snowy day, Liesel steals her first book - The Grave Digger's Handbook.

Liesel seems to immediately like Hans, but isn't sure of Rosa - after all she is a bit fiery!

She struggles at school as she can't actually read, and she has a recurring nightmare about her brother's death too. Hans is very gentle with her and always comforts her after her nightmare. One night he discovers her book and that she can't  read. So, usually in the middle of the night, after her nightmare, he teaches her how to read.

Liesel meets Rudy at school, who becomes her best friends. Together they get up to lots of mischief, including stealing fruit and more books for Liesel.

Now that Liesel can read and write, she starts to send letter to her mother, but they are never answered. We soon learn that she has disappeared.

At a Nazi book burning in the village, she steals another book. She hears phrases like "Death to Communism" "Death to Jews" and she knows that is why her father disappeared and why her mother has disappeared - they were communist. She hates Hitler with a passion and Hans has to explain to her not to voice these opinions in public.

It turns out that Hans' life was saved during the first world war by a jew called Erik. His son is in desperate need of somewhere to hide to avoid persecution so Hans agrees to help by hiding him in their house.

Max, the jew, arrives in a terrible state and Rosa nurses him back to health - This act of kindness makes Liesel start to love Rosa. Soon Max and Liesel become good friends. We discover how scary it is for a German to hide a jew in their home - a huge risk and Liesel is sworn to secrecy. She can't even tell Rudy.

Liesel continues to steal books, this time from the mayors wife, Isla. She has a wonderful library full of books and on laundry day she gets to go inside. But when the laundry has to stop, lisel continues to visit her library and steal books. Isla knows all too well what is happening  and doesn't cause any mischief.

The Book Thief Summary (Part 2)

I call this part two as everything changes after this one event:

When a line of prisoners marches passed their house onto a concentration camp, all looking about to die from starvation, Hans offers one of them a piece of bread. The poor prisoner and Hans are whipped as a result.

The paranoia and worry of Max being caught is heightened. Surely they will come to the house and demand an explanation. Max already feels guilty enough for the pressure and threat he is putting onto the family so decides to leave.

Hans is indeed punished for the bread incident and must join the army and is posted away from his family. Rudy is asked to join a special training camp due to his athletic ability but his family manage to stop this happening by offering up his father for service instead.

Liesel is very sad to see Max and now Hans go but she carries on reading, stealing fruit with Rudy and reading the book Max wrote for her on old pages of Hitler's Mein Kampf!

Hans arrives home - he breaks his leg in a bus accident and Lisel gets to see Max again. Unfortunately he is a prisoner marching to the concentration camp. Liesel is very brave and walks and talks with Max. She and Max are both whipped and Rudy manages to stop her from talking any further with Max, to avoid her being punished even more.

The Mayors wife gives Liesel a blank book to start writing in. Here she writes her life story and calls it "The Book Thief" She is writing it in the basement when a bomb hits the street, killing everyone she knows accept herself.

The Mayor takes her in for a while and then Rudy's Dad looks after her for a time.

We are pleased to know that Liesel goes on to live a long and happy life with her own kids and grand children. Max even manages to survive the camp and is reunited with Liesel after the war.

At the end of the book, death gives her back her book "The Book Thief" as he takes her soul.

Now you've read The Book Thief Summary - why not review discussion questions and themes on the link below:

The Book Thief

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