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Individual Learning Packet

Teaching Unit

The Book Thief


by Mark Zusak

written by Stephanie Polukis and Priscilla Baker

Copyright © 2012 by Prestwick House Inc., P.O. Box 658, Clayton, DE 19938. 1-800-932-4593.
www.prestwickhouse.com Permission to copy this unit for classroom use is extended to purchaser for his or her
personal use. This material, in whole or part, may not be copied for resale.

ISBN 978-1-62019-064-7
Item No. 309119
The Book Thief TEACHING UNIT

The Book Thief


Notes

Markus Zusak was born on June 23, 1975, in Sydney, Australia, to an Austrian father and Ger-
man mother, both of whom experienced World War II personally. From their stories of the war
in Munich and Vienna, Zusak generated the ideas for The Book Thief. Two stories of particular
inspiration were ones his mother told him about the bombing of Munich and the “parade of Jews”
headed for Dachau, during which she saw an incident quite similar to what Zusak portrays in The
Book Thief.

Zusak has written five books, including The Book Thief and The Messenger, both of which are
best sellers. The Book Thief has also been adapted into a stage play, and a movie version is planned.

All references come from the Random House, Inc. Knopf edition of The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak,
copyright September 2007.

Note to the Teacher: The novel is about the Holocaust and will, therefore, need to be handled sensitively.
Because the novel is seen through the eyes of Death, the narrator, the perspective can be somewhat
grim, and there are several scenes of violence and that will need to be addressed.

NOTES
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Objectives

1. examine the significance of both the title of the novel and the individual chapters.

2. analyze the pros and cons of the chosen point of view and understand the effect that choice
had on the novel as a whole.

3. discuss the function of setting and the time period in the novel.

4. examine the impact of the social and political issues present in the novel on plot, character,
and theme.

5. trace the character development of the novel’s protagonist, Liesel.

6. identify and describe the following characters and explain their function in the plot, taking into
account the ways in which they support some of the novel’s major concepts and/or themes:

• Hans Hubermann
• Rosa Hubermann
• Rudy Steiner
• Max Vandenburg
• Ilsa Hermann
• Frau Holtzapfel
• Frau Diller
• Werner Meminger

7. discuss characters in terms of whether they are flat or round, static or dynamic.

8. explain how Zusak uses figurative language in the novel to develop character and theme, and
to create mood.

9. identify instances of tone and attitude and the literary devices the author employs in each case.

10. cite examples of foreshadowing in the novel and their importance to the novel as a whole.

11. point out instances of flashback in the text and their importance to the scenes in which
they occur.

12. identify the story’s climax.

OBJECTIVES
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13. define the following literary terms that are discussed in the Unit and identify examples of
them within the text:

• alliteration
• allusion
• imagery
• metaphor
• narrator
• paradox
• personification
• simile

14. identify, discuss, and support how the novel deals with the following themes and major concepts:

• Words can both give and take away power.


• Words can both enlighten and damage people.
• Words can unite, save, and comfort people.
• Words can provide a necessary escape.
• There is a responsibility of the guilty observer in times of war.
• Humanity has a great capacity for denial when striving for self-preservation.
• Humans are capable of both brutal and beautiful acts.
• Humans show love in a variety of ways and willingly make sacrifices for those they care about.
• It is difficult to remain true to one’s self in times of great adversity.
• Ordinary people can show great courage.
• Suffering exists on multiple levels.
• Death is an inevitable part of life and is not to be feared.
• Death is often harder for those who survive.
• Friendship is a powerful gift that transforms people.
• Chance plays a significant role in humans’ lives.
• Children often understand the world far better than adults do.
• Humanity’s capacity for hope is ultimately difficult to destroy.

OBJECTIVES
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15. trace the development of symbols and motifs in the novel and explain their relevance and
meaning:

• accordion
• books and words
• bread
• cigarettes
• colors
• drawing and pictures
• dreams and nightmares
• fighting
• fire
• lightness and darkness
• promises and secrets
• stealing
• the kiss
• the snowman
• weather

16. Write an essay on the novel based on character, symbols, motifs, use of figurative language,
or theme.

OBJECTIVES
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The Book Thief TEACHING UNIT

Terms and Definitions

Allusion – a reference to a person, place, poem, book, event, etc., which is not part of the story,
that the author expects the reader will recognize. Example: In Romeo and Juliet, Mercutio
alludes to several historical figures and Greek & Roman myths when he says that Juliet,
in Romeo’s mind, is prettier than Dido, Cleopatra, Helen, Hero, and Thisbe.

Characterization – the methods, incidents, speech, etc., an author uses to reveal the people in the
book. Characterization is depicted by what the person says, what others say, and by his or
her actions.

Climax – the point of greatest dramatic tension or excitement in a story. Examples: Othello’s
murder of Desdemona. In To Kill a Mockingbird, the person chasing Scout is killed.

Diction – the choice that the author makes about which words to use. Diction can be formal, as in
a textbook, informal, as in a book intended for the public, figurative, as in a poem, or it can
fit into numerous other categories.

Exposition – the background information that the reader has to know and/or understand before
reading the play or novel. The information is usually dealt with at the beginning of the
book. Sometimes, exposition reveals things that occurred before the actual plot begins.
Example: The chorus in Romeo and Juliet explains the setting, the feud between the fami-
lies, and the future deaths of the main characters in fourteen lines of poetry.

Falling Action – additional action that follows the climax. Example: After the deaths near the end
of Hamlet, the Prince of Norway enters, and Horatio explains what happened.

Figurative Language – words and phrases that have meanings different from their usual ones in
order to create a poetic and/or literary effect. Examples: Love certainly has its own seasons;
crumbling cities made of matches.

Flashback – a scene that interrupts the ongoing action in a story to show an event that happened
earlier. Example: The movie, Citizen Kane, tells its story almost exclusively through the
memories of its characters, who all knew Kane before his death.

Foreshadowing – the use of hints or clues in a story to suggest what action is to come. Foreshad-
owing is frequently used to create interest and build suspense. Example: The prophet,
Tiresias, in Oedipus Rex says that Oedipus is blind for not seeing the truth about his par-
entage and the murder of Laius. When Oedipus learns that he is the murderer and Jocasta
is his mother, he blinds himself with his mother’s brooches.

Hyperbole – exaggeration for emphasis; overstatement. Example: I’ve told you a million times to…

6 TERMS AND DEFINITIONS


The Book Thief TEACHING UNIT

Imagery – the use of words to evoke impressions and meanings that are more than just the ba-
sic, accepted definitions of the words themselves. Example: The quotation, “Get thee to a
nunnery,” from Hamlet implies that Ophelia must regain her purity and chastity and does
not simply mean that she needs to go to a convent.

Irony – a perception of inconsistency, sometimes humorous, in which the significance and


understanding of a statement or event is changed by its context. Example: The firehouse
burned down.

• Dramatic Irony – the audience or reader knows more about a character’s situation than
the character does and knows that the character’s understanding is incorrect. Example:
In Medea, Creon asks, “What atrocities could she commit in one day?” The reader, how-
ever, knows Medea will destroy her family and Creon’s by day’s end.

• Situational Irony – an event in a story that does not happen the way the audience or reader
predicts. Example: In Great Expectations, Magwitch, not Miss Havisham, is Pip’s benefactor.

• Verbal Irony – a discrepancy between what is said and what is really meant; sarcasm.
Example: A large man whose nickname is “Tiny.”

Metaphor – a comparison of two things that are basically dissimilar in which one is described
in terms of the other. Example: The moon, a haunting lantern, shone through the clouds.

Mood – the emotional aspect of the work, which contributes to the feeling the reader gets from
the book. Example: Gothic novels like Frankenstein have a gloomy, dark quality to them,
which the author reflects through the depiction of nature, character, and plot.

Motif – a situation, incident, idea, or image that is repeated significantly in a literary work. Ex-
amples: In Hamlet, revenge is a frequently repeated idea. In The Catcher in the Rye, Holden
continually comments on the phoniness of people he meets.

Narrator – the one who tells the story. The narrator must not be confused with “author,” the
one who writes the story. If the narrator is a character in the book, the proper term is
“first-person narration.” Example: Moby Dick is narrated by Ishmael, a crewmember. If
the narrator is not a character in the book, the correct term is “third-person narration.”
Example: Sense and Sensibility.

Paradox – a statement that is self-contradictory on its surface, yet makes a point through the
juxtaposition of the ideas and words within the paradox. Examples:

“Noon finally dawned for the remaining, weary soldiers”;


“He that hath no money; come ye, buy and eat…”

– Isaiah 55:1

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Personification – a figure of speech in which an object, abstract idea, or animal is given human
characteristics. Examples: The wall did its best to keep out the invaders.

“Because I could not stop for Death,


He kindly stopped for me.”

– Emily Dickinson

Point of View – the position or vantage point, determined by the author, from which the story
seems to come to the reader. The two most common points of view are First-person and
Third-person. Examples: First-person point of view occurs in The Adventures of Huckleberry
Finn; the reader receives all information through Huck’s eyes. An example of third-person
point of view is Dickens’ Hard Times, in which the narrator is not a character in the book.

Protagonist – the central or main character in a story around whom the plot centers. Examples:
Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter; David Copperfield in David Copperfield.

Resolution – the part of the story in which all the problems are solved and/or the secrets revealed.

Rising Action – the part of the story’s plot that adds complications to the problems and increases
the reader’s interest.

Sarcasm – the use of harsh words to deride and criticize. Sometimes, sarcasm is apparent only
by the way something is said rather than the actual words that are used; other times the
sarcasm is obvious. Example: In The Catcher in the Rye, Holden says about a taxi driver he
dislikes that, “he certainly was good company. Terrific personality.”

Setting – when and where the short story, play, or novel takes place. Examples: Macbeth takes
place in the eleventh century in Scotland. The Old Man and the Sea has its main setting on
the ocean outside Havana, Cuba, in an unspecified time in the middle-to-late 20th-century.

Simile – a comparison between two different things using either like or as. Examples: I am as
hungry as a horse. The huge trees broke like twigs during the hurricane.

Symbol – an object, person, or place that has a meaning in itself and that also stands for some-
thing larger than itself, usually an idea or concept; some concrete thing which represents
an abstraction. Example: The sea could be symbolic for “the unknown.” Since the sea is
something that is physical and can be seen by the reader, and also has elements that can-
not be understood, it can be used symbolically to stand for the abstraction of “mystery,”
“obscurity,” or “the unknown.”

Syntax – the arrangement of words to form sentences.

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Theme – the central or dominant idea behind the story; the most important aspect that emerges
from how the book treats its subject. Sometimes theme is easy to see, but, at other times,
it may be more difficult. Theme is usually expressed indirectly, as an element the reader
must figure out. It is a universal statement about humanity, rather than a simple statement
dealing with plot or characters in the story. Themes are generally hinted at through differ-
ent methods: a phrase or quotation that introduces the novel, a recurring element in the
book, or an observation made that is reinforced through plot, dialogue, or characters. It
must be emphasized that not all works of literature have themes in them. Example: In a
story about a man who is diagnosed with cancer and, through medicine and will-power,
returns to his former occupation, the theme might be: “Real courage is demonstrated
through internal bravery and perseverance.” In a poem about a flower that grows, blooms,
and dies, the theme might be: “Youth fades, and death comes to all.”

Tone – the atmosphere in a literary work or the attitude the author puts in a literary work. Ex-
amples: The gloom and representation of decay is the main tone of Poe’s The Fall of the
House of Usher; the tone of Catch-22 is one of sarcasm and absurdity.

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The Book Thief TEACHING UNIT

Questions for Essay and Discussion

1. What are the pros and cons of Zusak’s choice of using Death as the narrator? How might the
novel have been different had the author chosen a different character to tell Liesel’s story?

2. How important is it that the reader be fully acquainted with the setting and time period to
fully understand the novel? That is, in what ways, if any, does the story stand on its own
regardless of the historical facts of wartime Germany? Conversely, how does a historical
knowledge enhance the reader’s understanding of the novel?

3. Identify the novel’s exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.

4. Zusak has carefully chosen the chapter titles for his novel. Identify at least three chapter
titles and their significance to both the chapter’s content and to the novel as a whole.

5. The narrator uses several flashbacks in the novel. Identify at least three and explain their
importance to the scene, chapter, and novel as a whole.

6. Identify several instances of foreshadowing in the novel and the effect on the chapter,
part, or novel as a whole.

7. Identify all major characters in terms of being round or flat, static or dynamic.

8. In what ways does Zusak use figurative language to develop character and theme and to
create mood?

9. Compare and contrast the two stories Max writes for Liesel, “The Standover Man” and
“The Word Shaker.”

10. The role of chance plays a significant part in several characters’ lives in the novel. Cite at least
three characters who are affected by chance and note both the short and long-term results.

11. Discuss the changes in Liesel and Rudy’s relationship throughout the novel.

12. Explain how promises and secrets play a significant role in the novel.

13. Describe the relationship between Liesel and Hans Hubermann and what ties the two together.

14. Give three examples of characters who suffer from guilt and explain the circumstances.
Do others judge them in the same way that they judge themselves?

15. Compare and contrast Liesel and Max. How does each person give the other’s life more purpose?

10 QUESTIONS FOR ESSAY AND DISCUSSION


The Book Thief TEACHING UNIT

16. The motif of stealing is a prevalent concept in the novel. Are there justifiable circumstances
in which to steal? Consider the acts of Liesel, Rudy, Arthur Berg, and Viktor Chemmel,
and assess the morality or immorality in each case.

17. Several characters have personality traits that can be seen as both strengths and weaknesses.
Choose at least three characters and note their conflicting qualities.

18. Discuss the author’s use of colors in the novel and how they contribute to character, theme,
and mood.

19. List each of the books Liesel’s steals or acquires and explain what she learns or gains from each.

20. Give three examples of the idea that suffering exists on multiple levels: physical, emotional,
and mental.

21. Why is Death “haunted by humans”?

22. Is Death merely an observer of the human condition or an active participant? Note several
scenes where he struggles both internally and externally.

11 QUESTIONS FOR ESSAY AND DISCUSSION


The Book Thief TEACHING UNIT

Test

1. How does Death acquire the book thief’s book?


A. He steals it from the young girl while she is crying.
B. He finds it in the rubble on Munch Street.
C. He discovers it in the basement where the girl was.
D. He retrieves it from a garbage truck.
E. He asks the young girl for it, and she gives it to him.

2. Tommy Müller has difficulty


A. hearing.
B. walking.
C. talking.
D. seeing.
E. learning.

3. Papa teaches Liesel how to


A. play the accordion.
B. cook.
C. paint.
D. play soccer.
E. read.

4. Mama sends Liesel to deliver and pick up her customers’ laundry because she
A. is injured and cannot walk.
B. is punishing Liesel.
C. thinks people will not fire a child.
D. has gotten another job.
E. is lazy.

5. Hans Junior is angry with his father because Hans


A. is not a Nazi supporter.
B. never fought in a war.
C. will not lend him money.
D. adopted another child.
E. does not love him.

6. Liesel steals her second book, The Shoulder Shrug, from


A. her teacher’s bookshelf.
B. Rudy Steiner’s house.
C. Ilsa Hermann’s library.
D. the fire at Hitler’s birthday celebration.
E. the Himmel Street Library.

TEST
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The Book Thief TEACHING UNIT

7. Hans Hubermann’s application to join the Nazi Party is denied because


A. he is too poor to pay the application fee.
B. he painted over a Jewish racial slur.
C. his son turned him in to the Nazi Party.
D. he is hiding a Jew in his basement.
E. he openly criticizes Hitler.

8. Erik Vandenburg saves Hans Hubermann’s life by


A. switching seats with him in a truck that is bombed.
B. running in front of him on the battleground.
C. nominating Hans to stay back to write letters for the captain.
D. dragging him to the army hospital after Hans is wounded.
E. offering to take his night watch shift so Hans can rest.

9. Max Vandenburg is first hidden by


A. Viktor Chemmel.
B. Hans Hubermann.
C. Reinhold Zucker.
D. Arthur Berg.
E. Walter Kugler.

10. While Max Vandenburg travels via train to Himmel Street, he is reading a copy of
A. The Shoulder Shrug.
B. The Word Shaker.
C. The Last Human Stranger.
D. Mein Kampf.
E. The Whistler.

11. Hans and Rosa decide to let Max come upstairs at night because
A. they feel guilty making Max stay in the basement all the time.
B. Liesel begs them to let Max come up and draw with her.
C. it is too cold and damp in the basement, and Max might get sick.
D. they are not worried about being checked on by the Nazis at night.
E. Liesel threatens to sleep down in the basement with Max if they do not.

12. Max fantasizes that he


A. boxes against Hitler and often wins.
B. walks out the Hubermann’s door a free man.
C. takes the train back to find his family.
D. strolls through the woods with Liesel.
E. finds money to give to Hans to thank him.

TEST
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The Book Thief TEACHING UNIT

13. Ilsa Hermann hides in her house because she


A. is afraid of being hurt.
B. is painfully shy.
C. does not like people.
D. lost her son in the war.
E. is not a Nazi supporter.

14. Rudy and Liesel join Arthur Berg’s gang of thieves to steal
A. books.
B. clothes.
C. money.
D. liquor.
E. food.

15. To save Liesel’s book from Viktor Chemmel, Rudy


A. jumps in the river.
B. punches him.
C. threatens him.
D. leaps over a cliff.
E. runs for miles.

16. A representative from the NSDAP comes to the Hubermann’s house to


A. see if there are any Jews hiding in the house.
B. process Hans Hubermann’s Nazi Party application.
C. determine if their basement is suitable as an air raid shelter.
D. offer Liesel a place in the Hitler Youth school.
E. tell them that their son has died in Russia.

17. At the Hitler Youth athletic carnival, Rudy wins


A. all of his races.
B. all but one of his races.
C. half of his races.
D. none of his races.
E. one of his races.

18. Hans Hubermann is whipped in the street for


A. giving bread to a Jew.
B. painting over a racial slur.
C. hiding Max in his basement.
D. protecting Liesel from a soldier.
E. lying to the Nazi Party.

TEST
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The Book Thief TEACHING UNIT

19. Frau Holtzapfel offers Rosa Hubermann her coffee ration in exchange for
A. ingredients for a cake.
B. Liesel’s reading to her.
C. Hans’s accordion playing.
D. Rosa’s laundry services.
E. a future unnamed favor.

20. Who survives the bombing on Himmel Street?


A. Tommy
B. Rudy
C. Hans
D. Liesel
E. Ilsa

ESSAYS (PICK ANY TWO)

1. Choose at least two of the following symbols and motifs from the novel. Explain the
meaning of each and the context in which it appears. Point out how each relates to one or
more of the novel’s major concepts and/or themes.

• accordion
• bread
• colors
• dominoes
• dreams and nightmares
• lightness and darkness
• snowman
• teddy bear
• the kiss
• weather

2. The novel centers around the idea that words have the ability to both give and take away
power, to both enlighten and damage people. Write an essay in which you explore the
author’s use of this theme in the novel and its effect on the novel as a whole.

3. The author repeatedly uses foreshadowing in the novel. Explain the intention and effect
of Zusak’s use of this literary device. Consider how the use of foreshadowing affects the
level of suspense the reader feels.

4. Hitler’s book, Mein Kampf, plays a significant role in the novel for several characters.
Note at least three characters that use Mein Kampf in some capacity, and explain the
significance to the character, and to the novel as a whole, in each case.

TEST
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Test Answer Key

1. D 6. D 11. C 16. C

2. A 7. B 12. A 17. B

3. E 8. C 13. D 18. A

4. C 9. E 14. E 19. B

5. A 10. D 15. A 20. D

16 TEST ANSWER KEY


The Book Thief TEACHER COPY

The Book Thief


Prologue

Vocabulary

abhorrence – disgust, hatred


affable – good-natured
amiable – sociable and friendly
array – an assortment
buckled – collapsed or gave in
compelled – felt driven to do something
concoction – something created using various parts or ingredients
deliberate – thought-out
disjointed – pieced together; lacking unison
diverse – having variety
fanatical – obsessed with a single idea
formulate – to create using a formula or method
gauging – judging, measuring, or determining the state of something
genially – warmly and kind-heartedly
hindered – prevented or held back
increments – additions in fixed amounts
intersect – to divide into parts by something passing through
intonations – pitches or tones, usually made by the voice
jittered – trembled with nervousness
legion – a group of people or things
murky – hazy; gloomy
perched – sitting on an unstable object
perpetual – never-ending
poles – positions that are opposite of each other
protestations – expressions of disapproval
resigned – yielded or submitted to
ruptured – burst or exploded
septic – infected or polluted
spectated – watched; witnessed
spectrum – a series of colors that blend from one into the next like a rainbow
traipsing – walking without plans; wandering
trepidation – nervousness or anxiousness
variables – differences or options in a single category
versatility – the ability to adapt or change
wavered – hesitated; swayed or trembled with indecision

1 STUDY GUIDE
The Book Thief TEACHER COPY

1. According to Death, what is the most difficult part of his job? Why does he need a distraction,
and what is this distraction?

The most difficult part of Death’s job is seeing the survivors and the loved ones that the deceased
leave behind. Death distracts himself by looking at the colors in the sky.

2. Who or what is “the book thief”?

The book thief is a girl who is recording true stories about the Holocaust in her journal.

3. In the Prologue, how many times does Death say he encounters the book thief? Describe
these events.

Death sees the book thief on three occasions:

• A boy dies while on a train, leaving behind a woman and a young girl, presumably his mother
and sister. Two guards debate what to do with the body, and the boy’s family decide to report the
event at the next stop. The sister is later identified as the book thief. The color associated with
this event is white.

• A young pilot dies in a plane crash. When Death comes to collect the soul, he watches as a boy
takes a teddy bear out of a toolbox and leaves it by the body. The book thief is also present.
Black is the color associated with the event, and it is described as a “signature.”

• A small German town is bombed, killing several people, including children. The book thief is
a member of this town, and when Death sees her, she is clutching a book. Death says that the
book thief wants to go to a basement to write or read, but the basement has been destroyed.
Death decides to follow her.

4. How does Death acquire the book thief’s book?

On the day the German town is bombed, the book thief drops her book, kneels down, and cries.
The book is eventually thrown into a garbage truck with the rubble, and Death retrieves it from
the truck. Students will not realize it yet, but this scene, as are many others, is re-enacted much
later in the book.

5. What symbol is made from the red, white, and black colors associated with the sky and
the book thief? What does the symbol signify?

The black scribble is presumably a swastika, and it is in a round white circle on a red back-
ground. The three colors form the flag of the Nazi party.

6. What does Death say the book thief’s stories will prove to the reader?

Death says that the stories will prove that human existence is “worth it.”

2 STUDY GUIDE
The Book Thief TEACHER COPY

Part One: “Arrival on Himmel Street” – “The Woman with the Iron Fist”

Vocabulary

aggravate – to annoy; irritate


auspicious – favorable; foretelling good fortune
berate – to scold
callous – cold and unsympathetic; harsh
cannier – more clever or perceptive
castigate – to reprimand or criticize
corroded – worn away; rusted
deluge – a flood
differentiate – to recognize differences
echelons – ranks or levels in an organization
enviable – jealous
eventuated – came to be; resulted in an event
extracted – removed from something
hasten – to be quick to do something
hiatus – a break from something in a sequence
illustrious – famous and respected
impoverished – poor
incense – to make angry
inkling – a suspicion
innocuously – harmlessly
misleadence – the ability to deceive
moderately – to a fair or reasonable extent
passively – without resistance
ponderous – slow and awkward
prolific – produced in a great amount
raucous – loud and disorderly
trudged – moved slowly and with great effort
trundle – to move slowly
vacated – left or abandoned
vehement – intense; forceful

1. What happens in Liesel’s dream about Hitler? What does it reveal about her feelings toward him?

Liesel dreams that she is at a rally, listening to the Führer speak. She remarks that “his sen-
tences glo[w] in the night,” and when she smiles at him, he smiles back. She also tells him (in
English translation) “Good day, Führer. How are you today?” The dream suggests that Liesel
admires him, and there is a kind of friendship between them. It is also evident that Liesel wants
to gain his approval, but she has no idea of the devastation, both universal and personal, that
Nazism will cause.

3 STUDY GUIDE
The Book Thief TEACHER COPY

2. What are some suggestions in the “How it Happened” section that death, although still
undesirable, can be a healing experience?

Death, as the narrator, says several things about Werner’s passing that indicate the boy’s soul heals
as it makes the transition from the world of the living to the world of the dead. Werner’s lips, “cor-
roded brown color and peeling, like old paint. [i]n desperate need of undoing,” indicate that, while
alive, he was a sickly individual and most likely suffered. When his soul is first retrieved by Death,
it is “soft and cold,” but it eventually “warm[s] up completely. Healing.” The process of dying is
described in a way that indicates death may be a pleasant experience for someone in pain.

3. How did Liesel acquire her first book? What is it?

Liesel retrieves her first book from the snow in the cemetery. It had fallen out of an apprentice
gravedigger’s pocket when Werner was being buried. The book is the Grave Digger’s Handbook.

4. Describe Himmel Street. Why does Death find the street’s name ironic?

“Himmel” means “Heaven,” yet the setting is anything but heavenly. The section of town is not
very wealthy. The houses are small, boxlike, and close together. The trees are leafless, and it is
noted that there is a lot of concrete. Furthermore, the air is described as being “gray.”

5. How do Hans and Rosa Hubermann differ from each other in both appearance and personality?

Hans Hubermann is described as a tall, stern man with a straight walk, while his wife is a short,
rotund woman who waddles and always appears annoyed. Hans is levelheaded and quiet, and he
rarely demonstrates strong emotion. Rosa, while a caring person, is loud, hostile, and easy-to-anger.
She frequently uses profanity and insults her family and neighbors.

6. What activities bring Hans Hubermann and Liesel closer together?

When Liesel first arrives on Himmel Street, she is uncomfortable in her new surroundings and
with her new family. Rosa orders Liesel to take a bath. After Liesel refuses and becomes anxious,
Hans defends her and has her roll cigarettes instead. The simple task calms Liesel and helps her
concentrate on something other than her new situation. Liesel has nightmares about her deceased
brother, and she frequently wakes up screaming. Hans goes into her room and comforts her and
then goes to sleep on the chair beside her bed. Hans sometimes plays the accordion for Liesel
when she first wakes up in the morning or during breakfast. Liesel is delighted by the music.

7. What is the BDM, and what does Liesel do during the meetings?

The BDM is the Bund Deutscher Mädchen, or the “Band of German Girls.” The organization
prepares girls to help with the war effort. At the meetings, Liesel learns to say “heil Hitler”
properly, march straight, roll bandages, and sew clothes.

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8. Who lives at 8 Grande Strasse, and why does Rosa Hubermann dislike them? What is
Rosa’s relationship with her other neighbor, Frau Holtzapfel?

The mayor, whom Rosa calls a “crook,” and his invalid wife live in 8 Grande Strasse. The mayor’s wife
stays home all day, and Rosa believes that the woman is crazy because she never lights a fire in their
house. Frau Holtzapfel and Rosa have been fighting for years, but neither person remembers the initial
cause of the argument. Whenever Frau Holtzapfel passes the Hubermann’s door, she spits on it.

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Part One: “The Kiss” – “The Heavyweight Champion of the School-Yard”

Vocabulary

abducted – taken away secretly and forcefully; kidnapped


absurdity – ridiculousness
adrenaline – the hormone produced when a person is stressed, angered, or afraid
amplified – made greater
audacious – outgoing and fearless
collaborated – worked together
commentate – to comment on an event while it is taking place
conceded – admitted to be true
coping – dealing with a difficult situation
culminating – concluding in or reaching the highest point
cynicism – a distrust of others; a belief that people are motivated only by self-interest
demolition – destruction
deprivation – lacking something essential
disclosed – made known
elated – extremely happy
excruciating – unbearably painful
flanked – having people or things positioned on the left and right side
fluency – the ability to speak, read, or write accurately
goaded – prodded; pressured
gravitating – being attracted or drawn to
implicit – implied
infamy – fame for some bad behavior; a bad reputation
lacerated – ripped or torn
lodged – housed; fixed in something
luminary – an important person who inspires others
materialized – took on a physical form
melancholic – depressed
misogynistic – tending to hate women
morbidity – having disturbing and gruesome characteristics
nefarious – wicked; evil
obliterated – destroyed
prelude – an introduction
prodded – nagged into doing something
regimen – a routine
relinquished – gave up a hold on or claim to something
rendition – version; interpretation
scythe – a long pole with a curved blade at the end used for cutting grain
seethe – to become overwhelmed with anger
serenity – a calm and peaceful state
steadfast – fixed; unwavering
strewn – thrown about randomly

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touted – publicized or promoted


vicinity – the area near a certain place
whittled – shaped by carving away pieces

1. Who is Rudy Steiner, and how is he characterized? How do he and Liesel meet?

Rudy Steiner is a ten-year-old boy who is slightly older than Liesel. He lives on Himmel Street with
his parents and five siblings. He is described as an imaginative boy with blonde hair, “bony legs,
sharp teeth, [and] gangly blue eyes.” Rudy prides himself on being a good soccer player, but he is
also good at other sports. Before Liesel arrived in Molching, he painted himself black and ran the
100-meter sprint, pretending he was Jesse Owens.

Rudy and Liesel meet during a soccer game. Since she is the new girl in the neighborhood, the other
kids make her the goalie. Rudy makes a penalty shot, and even though he had not missed one in the
last eighteen tries, Liesel is able to block it. Rudy becomes angry and hits her in the face with snowball.

2. How does Liesel and Rudy’s friendship evolve throughout these chapters?

Initially, Rudy is trying to beat Liesel at soccer and is impressed with her ability to block his kick.
Then, because he “fancied himself with the ladies,” he decides to pursue a friendship with her. He
challenges her to a race; his prize will be a kiss if he wins, and hers will be getting out of being
goalie, but they tie. They spend a great deal of time together and become protective of one another.
He is the only member of the class not to laugh at her when Liesel cannot read in front of the
class, and she takes on his own memories of “the Jesse Owens incident” as if she had witnessed it
firsthand. When Liesel breaks down at the end of this section and cries about her brother, Rudy is
able to offer her comfort. He puts his arm around her in friendship and leads her home.

3. Discuss Tommy Müller’s role in these chapters.

The reader first meets Tommy Müller during the soccer game where Liesel is playing goalie. Previ-
ously, Tommy has been stuck playing goalkeeper, and he is relieved to have Liesel take his place.
Later, Rudy tells Liesel that when Tommy was five years old, he got lost at the markets on the coldest
day of the year and nearly froze to death. He endured several unsuccessful operations to cure the
resulting ear infections, but the doctors killed his nerves, so “now he twitches.” Later, after Liesel
beats up Ludwig Schmeikl on the playground, she spies Tommy’s mocking smile and beats him up
as well. Tommy is also “the most useless soccer player Himmel Street had ever seen.”

4. Who is Frau Diller, and what is her “one golden rule”?

Frau Diller is described as a “sharp-edged woman with fat glasses and a nefarious glare,”
which she uses to deter thievery in her shop that is “white and cold, and completely bloodless.”
She is devoted to two things: her shop and the Nazi Party. Her golden rule is that all patrons
of her shop must show the proper respect to the framed photo of Hitler on the wall and exclaim
“heil Hitler” as they enter, or they will not be served.

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5. Explain the allusion present in the narrator’s interjectory title “The road of yellow stars”
in the chapter “The Kiss.” How does the reader then know what the section will be about,
and how does this relate to the setting for the novel?

For any students who have previously studied the Holocaust, the “yellow stars” will immedi-
ately bring to mind the treatment of the Jews during the Nazi regime. Jews were forced to wear
yellow stars on all of their clothing so they could be easily identified. Eventually, all those with
stars were rounded up to live in segregated areas of their cities, and many were sent to work
and death camps. Though the narrator has clearly established that the time period is that of
Nazi Germany, there has been little reference to the Jews until now.

6. Examine the significance in these chapters of the following motifs: colors, dreams, and books.

• In “The Kiss,” Munich Street is described as “a lengthy tube of gray,” and the clouds are “lead-
colored.” The colors capture the desolate, damp, dreary atmosphere.

• Liesel continually dreams of her brother’s stare, and these nightmares lead Papa to come
and comfort her. The dreams frighten her, but they also present her with the opportunity to
develop a close relationship with her foster father.

• When Liesel wets the bed one night following one of her nightmares, Papa discovers The
Grave Digger’s Handbook under her mattress. He begins teaching her to read almost night-
ly, and Liesel cannot get enough of the words. Her new knowledge empowers her to step
in front of the class to read, and though she is not successful, she is far more confident and
knows that she is not “stupid” as the other children claim.

7. Identify several examples of Death’s use of humor or sarcasm in this section.

• When describing Pfiffikus, Death says his “vulgarity made Rosa Hubermann look like a
wordsmith and a saint,” and later, “The old man simultaneously straightened and proceeded
to swear with a ferocity that can only be described as a talent.” He also says, “It was widely
agreed that he and Frau Holtzapfel would have made a lovely couple.”

• Of Liesel and Rudy’s friendship, he says, “A snowball in the face is surely the perfect begin-
ning to a lasting friendship.”

8. Explain the significance of Mr. Steiner’s comment to Rudy, “I know, son—but you’ve got
beautiful blond hair and big, safe blue eyes. You should be happy with that; is that clear?”
What is the most significant word in his father’s comment?

Mr. Steiner knows that as long as his son looks like an Aryan, his son will be safe from persecution,
unlike Liesel, who was formerly described as having “dangerous eyes” because they are dark brown.

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9. Discuss the depiction of Hans Hubermann’s character in this section, noting the new de-
tails the reader learns about him.

Death tells the reader outright that Hans Hubermann “belonged to the 10 percent” of Germans
who do not support Adolf Hitler and that “[t]here was a reason for that.” The reader does not
yet know the reason but can assume that information will be forthcoming. Later, the narrator
reiterates a similar sentiment which foreshadows future events: “PAPA’S FACE…It traveled
and wondered, but it disclosed no answers. Not yet.”

When Liesel has nightmares, it is Papa, not Mama, who rushes to comfort her and “he always
knew what to say.” When he discovers Liesel’s interest in reading, instead of leaving her educa-
tion up to the school, he takes it upon himself to teach her—not just to help her learn to read,
but also to distract her from her horrific nightmares. He shows her affection, understanding, and
kindness, and Liesel begins to thrive through his genuine friendship.

10. In “The Smell of Friendship,” Death states that, “In the times ahead, the story would arrive
at 33 Himmel Street in the early house of the morning…It would carry a suitcase, a book,
and two questions.” What two literary devices is the author using here?

Death is foreshadowing the arrival of a visitor to Hans Hubermann’s home who will both ask
and answer questions about Papa’s history and the significance of his accordion. Zusak uses
personification as well, comparing the visitor to a story.

11. Give several examples of similes and metaphors in this section.

• In the first paragraph of “The Kiss,” the narrator uses two metaphors related to a theatrical pro-
duction: Molching was “filled with characters,” and Frau Holtzapfel was “only one cast member.”

• To describe the Jewish houses, the narrator uses a simile (“Those houses were almost like
lepers”) and then a metaphor (“they were infected sores”).

• To describe the Jewish people, the narrator uses a simile (“The drizzle made them look like ghosts.”

• In the chapter “The Other Side of Sandpaper,” Alex Steiner is described with a simile as
standing “like a human-shaped block of wood.”

• The final line of the section contains two similes: Liesel would hold words “in her hands like
clouds” and would “wring them out like rain.”

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Part Two

Vocabulary

adhering – following specific laws or principles


admonish – to warn against or reprimand
animosity – dislike or hostility
apprehend – to capture or arrest
attributed – believed to be the result of
bewildered – confused
caricatures – drawings of people or things that exaggerate prominent features
commemorate – to celebrate or honor the memory of
consummate – to make official or perfect
contemplating – thinking
culpability – blame; fault
decrepit – old and worn
dejected – depressed
deterrent – something that discourages a person or thing from doing something
dilapidated – worn out
discrepancy – inconsistency
disperse – to send in several directions; to scatter
dowsed – covered in liquid
escalate – to increase quickly
explicit – stated directly and clearly
fixated – obsessed with
flippant – not serious; disrespectful
foreboding – a feeling that something bad will happen
fruition – a completion
gait – a manner of walking or moving
grotesque – bizarre; misshapen; disturbing
hindsight – an understanding of past events
incinerate – to set on fire
infernal – annoying or irritating
jocular – tending to joke; humorous
machinations – plans
marginally – to a small or limited extent
melee – a disorderly mass of individuals, usually involved in a fight
ominous – foretelling a negative event
onslaught – an attack
overzealous – obsessed with or over-exited about something
partial –preferring one thing over another
partisans – members or supporters of a political party
podium – a small platform on which a person stands while giving a speech
proverbial – relating to a familiar saying
ransacked – damaged

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Reichstags – governmental buildings in Germany


resolve – the will or courage to do something
succumbing – surrendering; giving in to
suppressed – held in or prevented from surfacing
synagogues – Jewish places of worship
transgressor – a person who breaks a law or commits a wrong
unfurling – unraveling; unrolling; becoming spread out
vigilant – watchful; alert

1. Analyze the narrator’s use of flashback and foreshadowing in Part Two. How is his use of
these devices here similar to those in the two earlier sections?

In each section so far, Death has given the reader a clear picture of what is to come in the en-
suing chapters (foreshadowing) and then starts back at the beginning of the current narrative
(flashback). For the most part, the narration is then chronological, but there are occasional
interjections of future incidents yet to be revealed. In Part Two, the reader learns that Liesel
will steal a book, The Shoulder Shrug, on the day of Hitler’s birthday celebration, which is
four to five months away. It is also revealed that Liesel will have built up a great deal of anger
by then, but the reader does not yet know the cause of those feelings.

2. Explain the significance of the chapter title, “The Joy of Cigarettes.”

Papa’s cigarettes bring joy on a number of different levels. Rolling the cigarettes together is some-
thing that Papa and Liesel often do together and, like the accordion, bonds them. Rolling the papers
and watching Papa smoke seems to calm Liesel. Through the sale of eight cigarettes to gypsies, Papa
is able to buy Liesel two books for Christmas, which brings her great joy. And then Papa again sells
more cigarettes to buy Mama a dozen eggs. Though she complains about wanting shoes and clothes,
she is obviously happy to get the eggs and even sings while she prepares the meal.

3. At the start of the chapter “The Joy of Cigarettes,” what is Liesel’s emotional state?

Though she still has nightmares about her brother and misses her mother, Liesel now loves the
Hubermanns as well; she has a best friend, Rudy, and her reading and writing are continuing
to improve, so she feels more confident in her abilities.

4. What pivotal event occurs just after Liesel and Papa finish The Grave Digger’s Handbook,
and how does it reflect their relationship?

Just after they finish the book in the middle of the night, Papa and Liesel notice the colors of the sky
and the snow, and Liesel reveals her brother’s name: “His name was Werner.” She trusts Hans with
this vital and personal information because he has made her feel safe and loved for all these months.
His response, “Yes,” suggests that he already knew her brother’s name. This, too, is telling: He was
sensitive enough not to mention Werner’s name until Liesel was ready to share it with him. There is
a mutual trust and admiration between the two of them, and their friendship continues to grow.

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5. In “The Town Walker,” what is Mama’s plan? How effective is her plan, and how does Liesel
feel about it?

Mama is starting to lose laundry customers because people say they can no longer afford the
luxury with the war on. Mama believes that if Liesel delivers and picks up the washing instead,
people will not be able to turn Liesel away because she is a child. Mama even tells Liesel to
feign sadness and claim that Mama is sick so people will pity her. She instructs Liesel to take
the bag to each home, carrying it properly without swinging or creasing it, and bring it back
immediately with the money. So far, the plan seems to be working, and Liesel enjoys being out
in the streets on her own without Mama cursing and people staring at her.

6. Based on a school assignment, what does Liesel decide she wants to do that surprises Papa?
What is the final result?

Liesel is learning how to write proper letters in school and asks Papa if she can write a letter
to her mother. Papa initially thinks she means to write a letter to his wife, which confuses him.
When Liesel clarifies, “Not that mama,” Papa’s reaction is “unconvincing, as if he wasn’t telling
Liesel something.” Liesel makes numerous drafts of her letter, telling her mother all about Papa,
Rudy, Rosa, and her progress with reading and writing. She posts the letter and waits. Liesel even-
tually realizes that her mother will not write back and that they will never see each other again.

7. Though Mama is generally harsh and critical, identify several details that show her concern
and affection for Liesel.

When Hans tells her that Liesel wants to write to her mother, Rosa replies in a “surprisingly calm
and caring” voice and dejectedly wonders, “what they’ve done to her.” She chastises her husband
for giving Liesel two books for Christmas because now they have nothing to give her for her birth-
day. She beats Liesel for stealing the money, then compassionately relents when Liesel realizes
that she will never see her real mother again and says, “I’m sorry Liesel,” and Liesel understands
that Mama is not referring the beating.

8. Explain the significance of Liesel’s “yellow tear” at the end of “Dead Letters.”

Liesel swears that she sees a “stray yellow tear [trickle] down her face.” She wonders what the dif-
ference is between dark and light and seems equally comforted by the thought of both. Metaphori-
cally, Liesel is embracing the fact that there is light and dark in the world, in all people, and even
within herself. Death says that this knowledge of truly understanding “how things were and how
they would always be” will prepare her to handle future events and the truth about her mother.

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9. What preparations are being made for Hitler’s birthday celebration? Why is Rosa concerned
during these preparations?

The town is planning to have a parade, marching, music, singing, and a fire. The “fuel” for the fire
is to be the “propaganda of our enemies.” All Molching residents are being asked to turn over mate-
rial that reflect a time when Germany was not in power. On the streets of Molching, each window
is decorated with swastikas to honor Hitler. German flags are hung out on the ledges. Mama panics
when they cannot find their flag to hang out and fears that “they’ll come for us…they’ll come and
take us away,” but Papa finds it buried underneath his accordion in the cupboard.

10. Describe the Hubermann children. In particular, what does the reader learn about Papa’s
difficult relationship with his son? What is to become of Hans Junior?

Trudy is a bit taller than Mama but is far milder in temperament and has a quiet voice. She is a
housemaid in a wealthy section of Munich. She sends a few “smiled words in Liesel’s direction.”

Hans Junior is the same height as his father but is heavier. He has blond hair, “skin like off-white
paint,” and though his eyes are the same silver color as his father’s, they have been “Führered,”
hardened by his devotion to the Nazi Party. In “A Short History of Hans Hubermann vs. His Son,”
Death recounts the major details of their conflict: Hans Junior is a Nazi and his father is not.
Papa had made money painting Jewish houses and had been termed “the Jew painter,” but his
major transgression, which prevented his admission to the Nazi Party, was painting over racial
slurs on the front of a Jewish shop: “Such behavior was bad for Germany, and it was bad for the
transgressor.” Though Papa claims to have tried to join the Nazi Party, it is clear his heart is not
in it, and his son terms him a coward for his actions and leaves the house.

Death foreshadows Hans Junior’s future: “I wish I could tell you that everything worked out for
the younger Hans Hubermann, but it didn’t….he would hurtle through the events of another
story, each stop leading tragically to Russia. To Stalingrad.”

11. Explore the motif of courage and cowardice as illustrated by Papa and Hans Junior.

To Hans Junior, Papa’s lack of total commitment to the Nazi Party is a “pathetic” sign of weak-
ness. He feels that people like his father just “stand by and do nothing as a whole nation cleans
out the garbage and makes itself great.” Papa ponders his son’s insult and wonders if it is cow-
ardice to acknowledge fear and be glad to survive.

12. Explain the narrator’s use of personification in describing the burning books in “100 Per-
cent Pure German Sweat.” What contradiction in humanity does Death note?

The books are described as “the mound of guilt…an unpopular child, forlorn and bewildered,
powerless to alter its fate.” The burning books were “cheered like heroes” and when it was over,
they became “the corpse” and then a few are “survivors.” Death observes that “I guess humans
[even Liesel] like to watch a little destruction,” but “their great skill is their capacity to escalate.”

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13. Describe the process leading to Liesel’s revelation about her family.

Despite her love of books, Liesel is initially fascinated at the prospect of seeing the fire lit. As she
attempts to make her way to the front of the crowd, she listens to the passionate speech of a man
at the podium who is talking about putting an end to “the disease that has spread through Ger-
many for the last twenty years.” His speech is repeatedly punctuated by the word “Kommunisten”
(Communist). Thus far, Liesel’s education at the BDM has consisted of lauding the Germans as the
superior race, but no one other than the Jews has been targeted as the inferior race. Remembering
that her father had been labeled a communist, Liesel now begins to understand why she has been
separated from her family and needs to get out of the crowd. Her final revelation is catalogued by
Death in “The Gates of Thievery.” Liesel now understands that Hitler has taken her mother away
and believes that he is responsible for her brother’s death, and she hates him for all of it.

14. What is Papa’s reaction when Liesel says that she hates Hitler? How does Liesel respond?

Papa slaps her and says that she is never to say such a thing again. However, he then, tell-
ingly, clarifies: “You can say that in our house…But you never say it on the street, at school, at
the BDM, never!” Despite enduring numerous smacks from the nuns at school and even from
Mama, Liesel is utterly shocked when Papa slaps her, but the severity of his reaction forces her
to nod in agreement, and, further, she has been given permission to think and speak her mind
within the confines of her own home.

15. According to Death, what four things does a good thief require? Does Liesel possess these
attributes?

A good thief requires stealth, nerve, speed, and luck. Liesel sees the three surviving books “hud-
dled” among the ashes of the fire. She reaches in quickly to grab one of them, despite the burning
embers and people standing around. She is not successful on her first attempt but persists in try-
ing again and grabs a blue book with red letters. She makes a calculated decision that she can-
not save the two remaining books. Though she considers running back to toss the book onto the
mound, she turns and leaves when the Nazis notice that there is unburned material. Liesel cer-
tainly possesses stealth, nerve, and speed in this scene. The only thing she may not have enough
of is luck—she notices that someone in the shadows of town hall has seen her steal the book.

16. Based on the small detail given, who might the person be who sees Liesel steal the book?

The only details given about the person in the shadows is that the person’s hands are in his or
her pockets and that “it had fluffy hair.” This phrase is used earlier in the novel to describe
Frau Hermann, the mayor’s wife, “standing fluffy-haired.”

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17. How does this section of the novel address the theme of the power of words both to give
and take away power and knowledge?

Much of this section focuses on the Nazi’s obsession for burning books and printed matter that
they find threatening to their cause. The Party knows the power of words both to elicit support
and to incite opposition.

For Liesel, the finding and housing of the smoldering book in her uniform serves as a metaphor
for the power of words and the ability for them to survive no matter what. There is a symbolic
progression in her hiding of the book, which first feels “cool enough” against her chest, then
“nice and warm,” but starts to “heat up again” to the point that it is “starting to burn her.”
Finally, the book is, literally and figuratively, “eating her up.” Words can gradually burn into
one’s mind, and Liesel knows that the words are worth fighting for, no matter the cost.

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Part Three

Vocabulary

aptitude – the natural ability to do something


benign – harmless
bittersweet – having both pleasant and depressing characteristics
brandished – waved like a sword
brigade – a smaller unit of an army
compulsive – done impulsively and without much planning
confided – trusted with a secret
conglomerate – a group of different things put together in group
congregations – groups of people gathered together
contempt – disgust; scorn
contradictory – going against what is expected
cowered – crouched in fear
despondently – hopelessly and in low spirits
diabolical – evil
distort – to alter or deform
ecstasy – extreme happiness
elapsed – passed by
envision – to imagine
euphoric – giving extreme pleasure
evade – to avoid
havoc – destruction; chaos
immaculate – perfectly neat and free of flaws
incongruous – out of place
irrefutable – unable to be disproved
lolled – drooped down or hung loosely
magnitude – a great size or degree
manhandle – to handle violently
obligatory – required
oblivious – unaware
paranoia – a worry or fear of being harmed
prattled – babbled
proffer – to offer or give
rebuke – to criticize
repertoire – a collection of things, usually songs or speeches, that a person can perform
at a moment’s notice
reproach – disapproval
salvaged – saved from loss or destruction
secretion – a substance that is released from a cell or gland
sedated – calm; dull
seizure – the act of taking something by force
skeptical – hesitant to believe in an idea

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surreal – having a mixture of realistic and dreamlike elements


transcends – goes beyond the present situation
veered – rapidly changed direction
volatile – unpredictable; changeable

1. What is Papa’s reaction when he discovers that Liesel has stolen another book? What does
his reaction say about his character?

Rather than being angry, Papa merely says, “I don’t need to trade any more cigarettes, do I?” He
is then distracted by a train of thought, presumably his idea to go to the Nazi Party office to buy
a copy of Mein Kampf. Liesel is worried that he will tell Rosa what she has done, but he assures
her that her secret is safe with him and is, in fact, “bewildered” at the prospect of telling his wife.
His understanding and affection for Liesel outweigh his need to be honest with his wife about
something that will most assuredly bring unnecessary conflict and punishment for Liesel. As has
been the case thus far in the novel, Hans seeks to protect Liesel—with his music, with rolling
cigarettes, with reading in the middle of the night, and, now, with keeping her secret.

2. What is Hans’s motivation for going to the Nazi Party office to buy a copy of Mein Kampf?

While speaking with Liesel about her stolen book, Papa recalls her first stolen book, the two
books he gave her, his argument with his son over these books, and his son’s suggestion that she
needs “more appropriate reading material.” Hans knows he is under suspicion and that his ap-
plication to become a member of the Nazi Party has not been approved due to his painting over
racial Jewish slurs. By buying the copy of Mein Kampf, Hans hopes to avoid further suspicion
and increase his chances of becoming a member. He knows that he has put his family at risk
through his own actions and is hoping to remedy that situation, and he understands the neces-
sity of making appearances. He can also appear within his own home to be teaching Liesel from
Hitler’s book while secretly reading her new books in the basement and in the middle of the night.

3. Based on the title of the chapter, “The Mayor’s Wife,” what might the reader assume the
chapter is about and why?

At the end of Part Two, Liesel sees a fluffy-haired figure in the shadows, presumably watching
her, and recognizes her as the mayor’s wife. Students can assume that this chapter will involve
some sort of confrontation between Liesel and the mayor’s wife regarding the witnessing of the
stolen book at the bonfire.

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4. Contrast Liesel’s expectations regarding the mayor’s wife as compared with the reality of
what actually happens.

Liesel panics at the thought of confronting Ilsa Hermann and repeatedly avoids taking the laun-
dry to her house. She first tells Rosa that she forgot and then claims that no one was home. When
she and Rudy finally knock on the door, Ilsa does not address the situation, and Liesel believes
she has gotten away with it. Later, however, Ilsa invites her in while holding a “tower of books”
against her body and leads her to the library. Ilsa does not necessarily interact with Liesel but
seems content to let the girl revel in the astounding number of books she owns. Liesel is over-
whelmed by her surroundings, forgets to thank Ilsa, and runs back shortly after to do just that.

5. Explain the narrator’s repeated reference to Ilsa Hermann’s smile, which “gave the appear-
ance…of a bruise.”

The “bruise” is a metaphor for the anguish Ilsa feels over the loss of her son, Johann, which
the reader learns about later when Liesel asks about the boy’s name in one of the picture books.
Literally, Ilsa can manage little more than a meager smile because of her grief. Though Ilsa
believes that he froze to death, Death informs the reader otherwise: he was “parceled up in
barbed wire, like a giant crown of thorns.” The crown of thorns is an allusion to Christ; Death
is making a comparison between Johann’s and Christ’s suffering.

6. What information does the reader learn about the man in “Enter the Struggler”?

His name is Max, a Jew who is starving, afraid, and being hidden in a dark room by a friend. Who-
ever is hiding him has managed to get him an identity card that he puts inside a nameless book
with a map, directions, and a key taped to the inside cover. He also gives Max a bag with food and
a bottle of water. The reader learns at the end of the chapter that Max has some connection to Hans
Hubermann and repeats the phrase “please” three separate times in reference to this connection. The
reader now knows that Max is the thing “of great magnitude…coming toward 33 Himmel Street.”

7. What occurs when Liesel and Rudy meets Arthur Berg and the other boys?

Berg and the others accept Liesel, and with her, Rudy, because she is their “kind of idiot.” Then,
the gang steals apples.

8. Identify the additional details about Max presented in “The Struggler, Continued.”

It is November 3, 1940, and Max is on a train, nervously clutching the book, now identified as a
copy of Mein Kampf, given to him my his childhood friend, Walter Kugler, who is set to go off to
the army shortly. Walter also gave him a razor, a spoon, shaving cream, and a pair of scissors, all
of which Max uses to shave and clean up, emerging from “that building a new man.”

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9. Note two examples of irony present in the chapter, “The Struggler, Continued.”

Max, a Jew, must transform himself physically to blend in with the Germans around him by
shaving. The narrator states, “In fact, he walked out German. Hang on a second, he was Ger-
man. Or more to the point, he had been.” Ironically, Max is just as German as anyone around
him, but the fact that he is a German Jew now means that he has to hide in closets, carry fake
identity cards, and live in fear of being discovered.

There is also a major irony in the fact that it is a copy of Mein Kampf that may potentially
protect Max on his journey. Not only does the book contain his new identity card, a map, and
a key to potential safety, his reading of the book in public serves to allay suspicions from those
around him. Additionally, the title itself is ironic: Mein Kampf means, literally, “My struggle.”
Compared to Max and other Jews in Nazi Germany, Hitler knows nothing of struggle or suf-
fering but is, in fact, the cause of their struggle.

10. Explain the significance of Arthur Berg’s statement, “We might be criminals, but we’re not
totally immoral” and how his comment relates to Liesel as well.

Arthur Berg, though a food thief, has a moral code by which he lives. When Liesel and Rudy bring
him the basket of food they stole from Otto, rather than ration the items between the three of
them, he immediately goes to alert the others that there is food. In addition, though several other
boys recommend burning or keeping Otto’s basket, Arthur magnanimously insists that Rudy and
Liesel return the basket to Otto: “I’d say the poor bastard probably deserves that much.” Liesel
also shares Arthur’s “incongruous moral aptitude.” Though she is a book thief, she is a moral one
and understands that there is a right and wrong way, place, and time to steal.

11. Explain the significance, and irony, in the last chapter title in Part Three.

The last chapter in Part Three is entitled “The Struggler, Concluded.” Max has finally arrived
at 33 Himmel Street, so, in a sense, his struggle to get to Hans Hubermann’s home has liter-
ally “concluded.” However, the irony that students should understand is that Max’s struggles
are really only just beginning. He is a Jew looking for shelter in a house of non-Jews in Nazi
Germany, a request that could potentially bring dangerous, even life-threatening, consequences
for the Hubermanns, particularly since Hans’s reputation with the Nazi Party has already
been called into question. Max even asks himself: “How could he show up and ask people to
risk their lives for him? How could he be so selfish?” The reader does not yet know what has
brought Max to the Hubermann’s doorstep, but the fact that he has an address, and even a house
key, suggests that he has been sent with the expectation that Hans will definitely help him.

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Part Four: “The Accordionist” – “The Wrath of Rosa”

Vocabulary

affront – to cause offense


ambled – walked at a slow, lazy pace
antagonized – made angry
apex – the highest point
appalled – disturbed; disgusted
apprehension – anxiety or fear about a future event
archetypal – stereotypical
assertion – a declaration
astonished – surprised; shocked
awry – unusual; out of the ordinary
capitulate – surrendered
compensation – payment
competent – having the ability to do something well
convulsed – moved in spasms
dubious – doubtful; uncertain
emigrating – leaving one’s home to settle somewhere else
emulate – to imitate or recreate
endorsed – publically and officially supported
fathom – to understand
gallantry – polite and courageous behavior
Gestapo – the German secret police in Nazi Germany
grudging – reluctant
hemispheric – relating to one half of Earth
inconspicuously – without attracting attention
ludicrous – ridiculous
makeshift – serving as a temporary substitute for the real thing
malignant – causing harm
morose – gloom and hostile
obscenity – something (usually a word) that is offensive
ostracism – the process by which someone is excluded from a group
persecution – mistreatment because of one’s identity or beliefs
quelled – put an end to, usually by force
rangy – tall and long-limbed
reserve – a place where some commodity is stored
restrained – held back; kept under control
revoke – to take back; cancel
serial – divided into parts or a series
sporadically – occasionally and at random
tirade – a long, angry speech; an outburst
tranquil – calm
trodden – stepped on

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trounced – defeated
tutorage – teaching
vitality – health

1. What two questions does Max ask Hans Hubermann, and why are they asked?

Max first asks him if his name is Hans Hubermann and then asks if Hans still plays the accor-
dion. Max first needs to be sure that this man is, literally, his father’s friend from the war. His
second question reflects his desire to know whether or not Hans is still committed to helping Erik
Vandenburg’s family as be promised his mother he would: “if there’s anything you ever need.”

2. Describe Death’s account of how Hans Hubermann avoided him. How does Hans’s attitude
towards war save him?

The first time Hans was not killed was when he was fighting in France in World War I. Death
recounts that while the majority of young men in Hans’s platoon were eager to fight, “Hans
wasn’t so sure.” Because Hans is ambivalent about his commitment to the war, he makes sure
that he is in the middle of the action rather than at the forefront. Death comments, “Nor did he
excel enough to be one of the first chosen to run straight at me.” In Death’s estimation, Hans
was “either too lucky, or he deserved to live, or there was a good reason for him to live.” The
reader now knows that that “reason” is probably twofold: to help Liesel and to save Max.

3. What does Death mean when he says, “I’ve seen so many young men over the years who
think they’re running at other young men? They are not. They’re running at me.”?

Death is commenting on the futility of war itself. These young men think they are fighting for
a noble cause and rush towards the “enemy” in the name of their country’s ideals, but all they
are rushing towards is death itself.

4. Analyze the nature of Hans Hubermann and Erik Vandenburg’s friendship. How does this
friendship save Hans?

Like Hans, Erik Vandenburg is not “terribly interested in fighting.” The two men spend their
time together rolling cigarettes, gambling, playing music, and trying to survive as best they can
without drawing attention to themselves. On the morning of the day in which Erik is destined
to die in battle along with the entirety of his platoon, Erik nominates Hans to stay back to write
letters for the captain to relatives of dead German soldiers. Volunteering to stay back for such
a task would denote cowardice, so Erik suggests Hans as a candidate, thereby saving his life.

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5. Explain how this section addresses the theme that the power of words can save people
and unite them.

Hans Hubermann escapes Death because he is held back to write letters for the captain who
cannot write them himself due to his arthritis. Even though the words are not his own, someone
else’s need for words inadvertently saves Hans.

Hans gives Erik’s wife a handwritten note with his name and address on it. She keeps this note for
twenty years until her son is rescued by Walter. She gives him the note, knowing that “this could
be your last hope” for survival. Walter then takes the note, finds Hans Hubermann, and makes
arrangements for Max. This one small note of few words kept for twenty years will potentially
save Max’s life.

6. Recount Hans Hubermann’s thought process regarding his attitude towards Hitler’s rise to
power.

Though not well educated or particularly political, Hans Hubermann “was a man who ap-
preciated fairness.” Erik Vandenburg, a Jew, had saved his life, and many of his painting cus-
tomers were Jewish, so he could not support a Party that “antagonized people in such a way.”
Hans decided that the hatred would not last and, therefore, decided not to follow Hitler—a
potentially disastrous assumption.

7. What are Hans Hubermann’s “two mistakes” with regards to his standing with the Nazi
Party, and what are the two things that ultimately save him from those mistakes?

When Hans sees the damage to Kleinmann’s clothing shop from the Nazis’ brick hurling and
the “Jewish Filth” slur across the door, he offers to help Mr. Kleinmann whose house he had
painted the year before. Enraged by the injustice, Hans attempts to break into the NSDAP to
withdraw his application for admission in the Nazi Party. Though he tells a member who ap-
proaches him that he can no longer join, “He could already taste the error, like a metal tablet
in his mouth,” and tells the man to forget his request. Hans’s second mistake is going back the
following morning to paint over the racial slur on Kleinmann’s storefront.

What ultimately saves Hans from his “mistakes” are the fact that he did not withdraw his ap-
plication so he at least appears to be waiting for approval and his talent on the accordion.

8. Explain the significance of the chapter title “A Good Girl.”

At the end of the chapter, Hans assures Max that he need not worry about Liesel because “she’s
a good girl.” Prior to his arrival, but later in the chapter, Max and Walter Kugler have a con-
versation about the fact that Hans has a daughter, and Max panics, proclaiming that “kids have
big mouths.” Though Hans knows nothing of this former conversation, he can deduce Max’s
thought process and seeks to assure him that Liesel can be trusted with the secret as much as
Hans can.

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9. What is the function of the chapter “A Short History of the Jewish Fist Fighter”?

This chapter serves to provide background on Max’s character and how he came to be friends
with Walter Kugler. The two boys had a mutual affinity for fist-fighting and fought each other
repeatedly over their teen years, though Walter “was always seeking revenge for that first vic-
tory Max took from him.” Though they see each other sporadically during their adult years,
Walter comes to the Vandenburg’s home in his Nazi uniform to save his Jewish friend; Walter
also finds Hans Hubermann and, with great risk to his own personal safety, hides Max and
makes the necessary arrangements to get him to Molching.

10. What is it that Death admires about Max Vandenburg?

While Max watches his uncle die, he is struck by the submissive lack of fight in his uncle and
vows, “When death captures me…he will feel my fist in his face.” Death likes the “stupid gal-
lantry” of such a statement and admires Max’s attitude towards him.

11. Point out the irony of the following quotation: “In those days, they said the Jews preferred
to simply stand and take things. Take the abuse quietly and then work their way back to
the top. Obviously, every Jew is not the same.”

In context, this quotation refers to Max’s desire to fight, unlike the Nazi stereotypical view of
how most Jews handle conflict. The irony, however, given the context of the political climate in
Nazi Germany, is that the Nazis treated all Jews as if they were the same. To them, Jews were
incapable of intelligent thoughts or worthwhile endeavors and were in need of extermination.

12. Explain Max’s internal conflict once Walter rescues him and how it ties to a major theme
in the novel.

When Walter arrives at the Vandenburg’s door, Max only briefly protests: “I won’t leave. If
we all can’t go, I don’t go, either,” but Death wisely notes, “He was lying.” Death knows the
strength of humanity’s individual survival instinct regardless of the repercussions. Max’s lack of
action on his family’s behalf tortures him, and he views his actions as an act of “desertion” not
one of escape. Max’s feelings tie to the theme that those who survive bear the burden of guilt.

13. List several parallels between Max and Liesel.

Both Max and Liesel have lost their families, and both have guilt about being the ones to sur-
vive. In addition, they possess a keen survival instinct and have an affinity for fighting.

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Part Four: “Liesel’s Lecture” – “Pages from the Basement”

Vocabulary

abrasive – grinding; harsh


abstinence – self-restraint
affliction – suffering
allocated – distributed
beleaguered – having great troubles
bemused – confused, puzzled
caustic – bitter and ill-tempered
clouted – struck, as if by a punch
compliance – the act of following an order or command
descent – a downward movement
deteriorating – worsening; wearing away
dormant – inactive
emaciated – thin because of illness or starvation
enthused – excited
err – to be incorrect or mistaken
excerpts – short pieces of a larger work
excrement – feces
fabricated – made-up to deceive others
fragmented – broken into pieces
friction – rubbing against
gleaming – shining
gravity – seriousness
hobbled – walked uneasily or with pain
immutable – unchanging
imperative – crucial; of great importance
inaugural – indicating the beginning of something
iridescent – showing different colors when seen from different angles
jabbering – chattering; talking rapidly
mortifying – humiliating; embarrassing
opaque – not able to be seen through
optimistic – hopeful
perplexed – confused
pivotal – essential; important
placidity – calmness
plagued – troubled
prudently – carefully and with great precaution
residence – a place where someone lives
rouse – to wake
ruinous – disastrous
sadistic – enjoying the pain of others
self-deprecation – insulting oneself

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solemnity – formal and serious


steeped – soaked
tentatively – hesitantly
tepid – lukewarm
transpired – passed; took place
trepidation – anxiety about something that will happen
twinge – a sharp, sudden pain
ventured – set out to do something risky
venue – a place where something takes place

1. Note Death’s attitude towards the Hubermanns as reflected in the opening paragraphs of
this section. What techniques does the author use to convey this attitude?

Death directly asks his audience several questions about the Hubermanns without actually
answering any of them, suggesting that Hans and Rosa may be kind and ignorant, but of “ques-
tionable sanity.” He posits that instead of defining what kind of people they are that it would
be more useful to define their situation: “Very sticky indeed. In fact, frightfully sticky.” The
narrator then uses verbal irony and understated sarcasm to convey the obvious point: “When
a Jew shows up at your place of residence in the early hours of morning, in the very birthplace
of Nazism, you’re likely to experience extreme levels of discomfort.” Death asserts that it is
the situation Hans and Rosa find themselves in, rather than their natural tendencies, which
dictates their behavior and feelings of anxiety, disbelief, and paranoia.

2. What is the significance of the diction used to reference Max in “Liesel’s Lecture.”

At the beginning of the chapter, Death refers to Max as “a Jew.” Later in Liesel’s room, he is
referred to as “the man,” then “the body,” and then “it.” The author’s word choice reflects the
attitude of the Nazi Party toward Jews in general, which is that they are nameless, faceless,
worthless, irrelevant creatures. Liesel, who is currently being schooled on the tenets of Nazism,
would justifiably have conflicted feelings towards Max’s presence in the house given the anti-
Jewish education she has been receiving. The diction used in this chapter will contrast sharply
with later chapters as Liesel and Max’s friendship evolves.

3. Discuss Hans’s tactics in getting Liesel to understand the importance of their secret.

Hans first describes the important details of how he came to know Erik Vandenburg, his wife, and
now his son. Knowing that knowledge of the facts will not be enough to deter such a young girl,
Hans then moves to stating potential consequences: he will take and burn her books, she will be
taken away from them, Max will be taken away, or even he and Mama will be taken away and
never come back. Hans knows that Liesel cannot bear any one of these scenarios. Even when
Liesel breaks down, however, Hans does not immediately go to comfort her, despite his natural
inclination to do so. Only when he is sure that she understands does he hug her tightly.

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4. What is the significance of the last two lines in the chapter “Liesel’s Lecture”?

Death observes the following dichotomy: “Everything was good. But it was awful, too.” Though
Liesel now understands the importance of the secret and has no intention of betraying Papa’s
confidence, she also understands that this secret could bring dangerous consequences to the
family. She has just started feeling that she is a real part of this family and she does not want
anything to disrupt her sense of security. Max’s presence threatens her well-being and that of
her new family, thus her justifiably conflicted attitude.

5. What role does the motif of light and dark play, both literally and figuratively, in these chapters?

In “Liesel’s Lecture,” when Papa is describing his connection to Max’s family, there are “hand-
holding shadows” and “dark shapes” on the wall. Max lives in the cold, darkened basement amid
the shadows under the stairs, though Hans and Rosa eventually invite him to spend his nights by
the warmth and lightness of their fire. In a figurative sense, they all must “act as if nothing at all
had happened,” though their lives have “altered in the wildest possible way.” In the light of day,
they must pretend everything is normal by keeping those around them “in the dark.”

6. Describe what Liesel notes about Max in “The Sleeper.”

Liesel watches Max frequently as he sleeps for three days, drifting in and out of consciousness.
He lists a “recital of murmured names” as he emerges from sleep on the third day: names of his
family members, his friend Walter, and Hitler. He cries out “Nein” (No) repeatedly, and Liesel
realizes two similarities between them: They both arrived on Himmel Street in “a state of agi-
tation,” and they both have disturbing and frequent nightmares.

7. Compare Max’s character in “The Swapping of Nightmares” with what the reader learned
about him earlier in the novel. What has changed him so significantly?

Answers may vary. Example: Earlier in the novel, the reader learned that Max was a fighter. He
seemed confident, if not arrogant, assertive, and unapologetically driven. This was a person who said,
“When death captures me…he will feel my fist in his face.” Here, in “The Swapping of Nightmares,”
the reader sees a drastically different view of Max. He spends much of his day apologizing for putting
the Hubermanns at risk and for his very existence. When Hans shows him his space under the stairs,
he says it is “better than I deserve.” He seems to feel unworthy of the most basic human kindness and
is exceedingly grateful for even the smallest hint of generosity and human connection.

There are two major driving forces that have changed Max significantly in a fairly short period
of time. First is the guilt and shame he feels for surviving the Nazi regime, for taking advantage
of others and, therefore, inadvertently putting people in danger, and for having left his own family
behind in an act of what he feels was self-preservation cleverly disguised as “fabricated loyalty.”
Secondly, the self-loathing attitude Max displays reflects the Nazi brainwashing of the time pe-
riod in which all Germans were taught to view Jews as inferior, “voiceless human(s).” The Jews
were stripped of their jobs, their homes, their families, and their dignity. With this constant bar-
rage of disdainful messages, Max has come to believe that he is actually inferior.

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8. How does Rosa Hubermann exemplify the theme of ordinary people displaying great courage?

Rosa had nothing to do with the promise her husband kept years ago to Max’s mother, but she is
grateful to Erik Vandenburg for saving her husband and, therefore, feels she must embrace the
situation as best she can, despite the extraordinary risk to herself and her family. Liesel is actu-
ally shocked at the unexpected changes in her. Rosa generously divides their food equally with
Max, though they already have barely adequate rations. There is “considerable muzzling of
her notorious mouth” and her facial expressions have softened. Death himself observes Rosa’s
finest attribute: “She was a good woman for a crisis.”

9. Describe the progression of Liesel and Max’s friendship as seen in this section. How is the
theme that words can unite and save people highlighted by their friendship?

Though initially frightened and skeptical, Liesel watches over Max as he sleeps for the first three
days he is at the Hubermanns’ home. She notices that he has nightmares similar to her own, and
they later talk about their nightmares. Liesel is told to take her new book, The Shoulder Shrug,
downstairs to read with Max; it is obvious that he will freeze to death in the cold basement, and
the family decides to have him move upstairs in the evenings. Prompted by Liesel’s question re-
garding his copy of Mein Kampf, Max tells her that the book “saved [his] life” because it brought
him safely to Hans Hubermann. Max regales Liesel with stories about his past and his family
as they sit around the fire in the evenings. Liesel thoughtfully brings Max copies of the news-
paper so he can read and do the crossword puzzle, a gesture for which he is extremely grateful.
On her birthday, he is embarrassed that he has nothing to give her, and she gives him a hug. He
spends the next week making her a book to give to her in return for her kindness and friendship.
Throughout this section, the two are constantly connected by books and words, and their friend-
ship grows as a direct result of their love of language and communication.

10. How is Max able to help Liesel in a way that Hans cannot? What is Hans’s reaction to this
reality?

Max and Liesel share the similar tragedies of being separated from their families. Though Hans has
nursed Liesel through countless nights of sleeplessness, he cannot fully understand the magnitude
of Liesel’s nightmares the way that Max can. Through Max, Liesel derives the courage to cope with
the dreams on her own and tells Hans that he does not need to come anymore when she cries out at
night. Hans knows that this is a good sign for Liesel and sympathetically passes his disappointment
off as a joke: “At least now I can get some proper sleep. That chair was killing me.”

11. Explain the implication of Hans’s comment, “If we gamble on a Jew…I would prefer to
gamble on a live one.”

Though the situation is obviously dangerous for all involved, Hans knows that hiding Max is
better than trying to dispose of him if he were dead, which would surely be close to impossible
given the crowded neighborhood and watchful Nazi eyes. He, therefore, makes the difficult and
potentially dangerous decision to let Max come up from the cold basement during the evenings
to sleep by the warm fire.

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12. Describe the content of “The Standover Man.” What serves as Max’s source of inspiration
for the drawings? What is Liesel’s reaction to his gift?

One night around the fire, Liesel whispers to Papa that Max’s hair “is like feathers,” a thought
that sticks with Max while he is musing about his gift for her. As a result of her inspiration, he
draws himself as a bird-man with wings.

The content of the story focuses on Max’s fear of people who have stood over him in his life such
as his father, who left him, and boys whom he fought. It traces his life in hiding when Walter
was looking after him and his journey to Kimmel Street to find Hans. He draws Liesel standing
over him as well, but it is clear that he no longer feels the dread he once felt when others stood
over him. Instead, he shares things with her and notes that they have trains, dreams, and fists
in common as well as, he hopes, a genuine and giving friendship. He draws a picture of the two
of them embracing and describes the hug as a “gift” and Liesel as “the best standover man I’ve
ever known.” Liesel is moved by his story and goes to thank him in the basement. He is sleeping
and she contentedly watches over him just as she does in his story.

13. What is the symbolic significance of Max using Mein Kampf to make his present for Liesel?

Max covers the words of Hitler’s propagandistic book with white paint and writes and draws
his story for Liesel on the newly clean pages. Symbolically, their relationship also overshadows
Hitler’s call to hate. Max is then both literally and figuratively erasing the hate and covering
it with love and understanding. At the end of the chapter, “[they] slept, hand to shoulder. They
breathed. German and Jewish lungs.”

14. Identify several examples of personification in this section.

• In “Liesel’s Lecture”: “The fear is shiny. Ruthless in the eyes.”

• In “Liesel’s Lecture”: “the painted words were scattered about, perched on their shoulders,
resting on their heads, and hanging from their arms.”

• In “The Swapping of Nightmares”: “Dead leaves were slumped on the road.”

• In “The Swapping of Nightmares”: “The fire was nothing now but a funeral of smoke, dead
and dying, simultaneously.”

• In “Pages from the Basement”: “There were the erased pages of Mein Kampf, gagging, suf-
focating under the pain as they turned.”

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Part Five: “The Floating Book (Part I)” – “The Gamblers (A Seven-Sided Die)”

Vocabulary

barren – empty
bellowed – roared
commenced – began
debilitate – to weaken
decimated – destroyed
depleted – used up the supply of
despicable – wretched; loathsome
diplomatically – negotiating in a polite, sensitive way
dissipated – scattered in many directions
dividend – an amount of money paid regularly
dour – gloomy and depressing
envisaged – imagined
gratuitous – uncalled for; unreasonable; unnecessary
hoisting – lifting; raising up
hypocrite – a two-faced person
malice – evil or bad intent
methodically – done according to a procedure
neutralized – counteracted and made harmless
pallid – pale
periphery – on the outer sides or limits
plethora – an overabundance
proximity – nearness
rebounding – bouncing off of something
refrained – avoided doing something
respective – belonging to a particular person or group
riffling – going through quickly and casually
seeping – leaking through small holes
sustained – bore the weight of
toiled – worked
transfixed – paralyzed with fear or awe
unconscionable – dishonest; unreasonable
unnerving – causing one to lose confidence
vociferously – noisily and wildly
withering – decaying; shriveling

1. What two events are depicted in “The Floating Book”?

The beginning of this section describes Rudy’s saving a book for Liesel by jumping into the Amper
River, asking her for a kiss, her refusal, and his death in a bomb blast, “a little under two years later.”

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2. Explain the significance of the title of the chapter “The Gamblers (A Seven-Sided Die)”
and note the structure of the chapter in reference to the title.

The chapter title references Papa’s comment in “The Swapping of Nightmares” when he says,
“If we gamble on a Jew…I would prefer to gamble on a live one.” The “Gamblers,” in this case,
are the Hubermanns themselves, and the seven-sided die is a metaphor comparing hiding a Jew
to throwing a seven-sided die—a reference to the difficulty involved and the consequences if
either were discovered. The chapter is structured around the die metaphor, divided into seven
sections with each separated by a picture of a die with a progression of one to seven dots on it.
The construct serves to highlight seven major events that result from this gamble:

1. Liesel cuts Max’s hair.


2. Liesel brings the newspapers to Max.
3. Liesel recounts the details of the weather for Max.
4. Max fantasizes about fighting Hitler in the boxing ring and listening to Hitler’s persuasive
rhetoric to the crowd.
5. Max tells Liesel about his dream-like fantasy of fighting Hitler and continues to train.
6. Max, Hans, Rosa, and Liesel paint more pages of Mein Kampf so that Max can write another
book: The Word Shaker.
7. The Hermanns fire Rosa and Liesel from doing their washing, and Liesel has an angry
verbal confrontation with Ilsa about her dead son.

3. In the sub-section entitled “The Haircut,” what is particularly significant as it relates to


Nazis and WWII?

Answers may vary. Example: Liesel cuts Max’s hair and burns it. The description parallels Jews
in concentration camps having their hair cut off to be used in pillows. Then, many of them
would be gassed or cremated. In this case, however, the hair is burned, not the person.

4. What predictable routines have developed in Liesel’s life in the sub-section “The Newspaper”?

Several routines have been established over the course of the past few months. The days Liesel
spends reading at the mayor’s house all end similarly with Liesel putting the book back, Ilsa
sorrowfully, noiselessly offering for Liesel to take the book with her, and Liesel politely declin-
ing. On her way home, she picks up a newspaper for Max from a garbage can and presents
it to him when she gets home. He is especially happy if the crossword has not yet been done.
The two sit on the drop sheets—he does the crossword while she reads, and they rarely speak:
“there was really only the noise of turning pages.” Increasingly, Max quizzes Liesel on words
she still struggles with, and she paints them on the wall. Max repeatedly requests a weather
report because he cannot see outdoors.

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5. Discuss Liesel’s first description of the weather. Why does Max know that “only a child
could have given him a weather report like that”?

Liesel says, “The sky is blue today, Max, and there is a big long cloud, and it’s stretched out,
like a rope. At the end of it, the sun is like a yellow hole….” Max knows that had he asked
an adult the same question, the answer would have been a perfunctory “sunny” or “cloudy.”
Liesel provides him with the details that adults would find insignificant. For Max, these are the
simple details he craves. The simplicity of a child’s perspective enables Max to picture the sky
well enough to draw it, and he derives great pleasure in doing so.

6. What are the two “new projects” Max embarks upon and why?

The relentlessly endless passage of time has given Max the “distinct feeling…of disappear-
ance,” and he wants to feel interested in life again. First, he decides to start exercising. The
reader learns shortly that he is exercising so he can fantasize about fighting Hitler. The second
project is to paint over the remainder of Mein Kampf so that he can write another story.

7. Describe the details of Max’s boxing fantasy. Note how his fantasy ties to the theme of the
power of words to incite action.

Max pictures Hitler with his entourage in one corner of the ring with a red and white robe
with a swastika on the back. Max, in contrast, sits alone in the opposite corner in drab, gray
shorts and no robe. The fight lasts only one round but goes on for hours. Max is beaten badly
and eventually knocked out but rises to fight again, punching Hitler seven times, “aiming on
each occasion for only one thing. The mustache.” Max misses on the seventh punch whereupon
Hitler turns and addresses the crowd to solicit support.

Hitler’s rhetoric incites the crowd into a frenzy of hatred. When introducing him, the referee
salutes Hitler as undefeated “over many a Jew, and over any other threat to the German ideal!”

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8. How does Liesel use damaging words in “The Gamblers”? Describe the reactions of Ilsa,
Rosa, Hans, and Liesel herself to these words.

Angered by Ilsa Hermann’s dismissal, and even more enraged that the library will no longer be
at her disposal, Liesel unleashes a torrent of brutal facts on Ilsa: “It’s about time you faced the
fact that your son is dead. He got killed! He got strangled and cut up more than twenty years
ago…it’s pathetic that you sit here shivering in your own house to suffer for it” and then the
accusatory, “You think you’re the only one?”

As all the memories of her son resurface, Ilsa looks as if she has been beaten in a boxing match:
“Her eyes had blackened. Cuts had opened up and a series of wounds were rising to the surface
of her skin.” Liesel berates herself later for her strong, damaging words. She blames herself
for having lost the job with the mayor. She hopes a beating from Rosa will make her feel bet-
ter; however, Rosa does not believe her and refuses to beat her. Hans, who has not been to visit
Liesel at night in weeks, somehow senses that something is wrong and goes to comfort her.
When Papa falls asleep, Liesel finally confesses that she thinks she is “going to hell” for the
cruelty of her words and kisses him on the cheek. Papa is not asleep, though, and assures her
that she is wrong and stays with her for the night.

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Part Five: “Rudy’s Youth” – “The Floating Book (Part II)”

Vocabulary

altercation – a conflict
blatant – obvious; done without shame
branded – labeled
buoyantly – cheerfully
charisma – personal charm
cohorts – partners
concerted – planned and done with great effort
conferred – discussed
desecrated – destroyed or treated with disrespect
deviants – people who violate social norms
diminutive – small in size
disconcerting – unsettling
disheveled – untidy; disordered
ejaculated – said suddenly and quickly
epitome – a perfect example of something
forlornly – miserably; depressingly
fumigated – exposed to smoke or chemical fumes
fundamental – basic; underlying
idyllic – simple and peaceful
incentive – a motivation to do something
infuriate – to make angry
leered – glared; stared angrily
loping – bounding; striding
malnourished – not receiving proper nutrition
microcosm – a smaller version of the larger world
mire – mud
nostalgia – a sentimental desire to return to the past
perused – read or examined carefully
potency – power; effectiveness
predominantly – primarily
qualms – issues or feelings of unease
recounted – gave a detailed account of something
repugnant – offensive; distasteful
rhetoric – speech or writing that is persuasive
sodden – soaked
subsequently – coming after, usually as a result of

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1. What comparisons might the reader draw between Rudy Steiner and Hans Hubermann?

Like Hans, Rudy is loyal to his friends. He stands up for Tommy at the Hitler Youth meetings
because Tommy cannot hear well, and he repeatedly stands up for Liesel and helps her. In this
section, he helps her break into the mayor’s house to steal The Whistler and then rescues the
book from the river. Another quality Rudy shares with Hans Hubermann is his determination to
do what is right regardless of the consequences. Rudy knows that standing up for Tommy will
result in his own punishment as well, but he does not hesitate. When he feels Viktor Chemmel
is cheating him and Liesel out of their fair share of apples, he confronts the new leader.

2. What is the function of the chapter “Rudy’s Youth”? Briefly describe Rudy’s “triple-tiered
problem.”

In “Rudy’s Youth,” the reader gets a deeper perspective on Rudy’s character. The chapter lays
the foundation for upcoming altercations with Franz Deutscher and Viktor Chemmel. The
three main problems described in the chapter are:

• Tommy Müeller has a hearing deficiency that prevents him from hearing the marching com-
mands at the Hitler Youth meetings.

• Franz Deutscher, the Hitler Youth leader, does not like Rudy and seems to thrive on the power
he has as leader. This struggle will have major consequences later in this section of the novel.

• Rudy has an ability to get into trouble because he cannot stay out of things. His attitude poses
a significant problem in this chapter when he stands up to Deutscher. When Rudy defends
Tommy, both boys are punished.

3. Note the multiple times Rudy Steiner’s desire to kiss Liesel is mentioned in this section.

At the end of “Rudy’s Youth,” Rudy attempts to appeal to Liesel’s sense of pity after he tells her
the story about Tommy at the Hitler Youth meeting. “What about it, Saumensch?” he asks. “It”
means another request to kiss her. She refuses, yet he holds to the hope that “one day,” she will.
After they steal The Whistler from the mayor’s house and Rudy runs back to get her shoes, again,
Rudy inquires, “No point asking if I get a kiss for that, I guess?” Again, she refuses, but this time
there is “the escaped beginnings of a smile,” suggesting that she may be warming to the idea.
And finally, at the end of Part Five, Rudy asks Liesel one last time for a kiss. Death comments
that Rudy “was scared of the book thief’s kiss, though he longed for it and “loved her so incred-
ibly hard.” Death also reveals to the reader at this point that Rudy “would never ask for her lips
again,” though the reader already knows that Liesel will, indeed, kiss him when he is dead.

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4. In what ways do Viktor Chemmel and Franz Deutscher represent the qualities for which
Adolf Hitler stands?

Both Chemmel and Deutscher forcefully use their self-appointed power over their subjects—in
the case of Chemmel, his gang of thieves, and for Deutscher, the members of the Hitler Youth.
Both young men instill fear in those around them and are unnecessarily cruel. Deutscher uses
Tommy as an example of weakness, and Chemmel calls Liesel a “whore” and a “slut.” Both
are vindictive: Deutscher punishes Rudy for refusing to name Hitler’s birthdate correctly, and
Chemmel delivers on his promise to make Rudy “pay” for his act of indignation in spitting at
his feet. Chemmel also displays another of Hitler’s prominent characteristics—greed. Whereas
Rudy steals food because he is hungry, Viktor “had it all…He had money. He had cigarettes.
What he wanted, however, was more.”

5. Cite an example of foreshadowing in “The Losers.”

At the end of the chapter, Rudy spits blood and saliva at Viktor Chemmel’s feet, provoking Vik-
tor to threaten, “You’ll pay for that at a later date, my friend.”

6. Explain the meaning of Max’s sketches. What double meaning might there be in Liesel’s
comment, “You scared me, Max,” at the end of that chapter?

There are two drawings represented in this chapter. One is of Hitler standing on the top of a set
of high stairs above people with the caption: “Not the Führer—the conductor!” Like a musical
conductor, Hitler controls the minds and actions of those around him. The second drawing is
of a man and girl holding hands (perhaps Max and Liesel), and they are standing on top of a
pile of swirling bodies with a swastika-ridden sun shining down; the caption reads, “Isn’t is a
lovely day….” Max is depicting the cost of the Nazi regime with this picture as the dead body
count continues to rise under Hitler’s reign.

Liesel twice repeats, “You scared me, Max.” The first time she says it, it is in response to Max
startling her when he wakes up and speaks to her. The second time, she “dragged the same
thought up the steps,” presumably because his pictures scared her.

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7. Describe the internal conflict Liesel has over stealing the book back from the mayor’s
house in “The Whistler and the Shoes.” Why is this chapter particularly significant to the
novel as a whole?

The reader has already seen that Liesel greatly enjoys the idea of stealing and she very quickly
agrees with Rudy that they should go on their own thieving spree. Desperate to get The Whis-
tler back from the mayor’s library, Liesel pretends to want to steal from them because they fired
Rosa. When they arrive at the house, however, the window to the library is closed. Though she
appears outwardly disappointed, Liesel is also somewhat relieved: “Internally. She shrugged
away from a kind of gladness that the window was closed.” She and Rudy return three more
times, and the window is closed each time. On the fifth visit, the window is finally open, “and
how her heart began to heat” with the excitement of stealing that book back. Liesel never want-
ed to accept Ilsa’s gift of the book, yet she simultaneously feels justified in stealing it: “Stealing
it…seemed a little more acceptable. Stealing it, in a sick kind of sense, was like earning it.”

This chapter is particularly significant to the novel because it is when Liesel earns her nick-
name of “the book thief” from Rudy.

8. Briefly describe Rudy’s “Three Acts of Stupidity.”

• Rudy attempts to steal the biggest potato from Mamer’s grocery store. A group of women spot
him and Mamer threatens to call the police, but Rudy’s teacher, Herr Link, defends him and cor-
roborates Rudy’s lies about his family’s hardship. Mamer lets Rudy go with the potato but tells
him not to come back.

• Rudy antagonizes Franz Deutscher at a Hitler Youth meeting by refusing to name the Führer’s
birthday correctly, though he knows what the correct answer is. He later throws a rock at
Deutscher on Munich Street, and the two fight. Rudy ends up with “a black eye, cracked ribs,
and a haircut” as a result.

• Rudy begins skipping the Hitler Youth meetings altogether. His parents both threaten and beg
him to go to avoid being fined and labeled as traitors. His brother, Kurt, manages to correct the
problem by getting Rudy into the Flieger Division where they learn about aircraft and flying.

9. Discuss the prevalence of the stealing motif in this section of the novel.

Stealing plays a significant role in this section of the novel. At the end of “Rudy’s Youth,” Liesel re-
flects on her “desire for crime.” Viktor Chemmel now leads Arthur Berg’s gang of thieves, and Liesel
and Rudy participate in another raid of the apple orchard in “The Losers.” In “The Whistler and the
Shoes,” Liesel and Rudy decide to steal from the mayor’s house; though Rudy assumes they are there
to get food and cigarettes, Liesel has come only for a book. Later, Rudy steals a giant potato from
Mamer’s grocery store and gets away with it through the supportive lies of his teacher, Herr Link.
For Rudy, stealing something constitutes a victory when so many other forces seem to be working
against him, and it builds upon his close relationship with Liesel. For Liesel, stealing seems to be an
addiction: “The girl couldn’t help it. Her hands itched, her pulse split, and her mouth smiled all at
the same time” at the thought of stealing something.

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Part Six

Vocabulary

abridged – shortened
adamant – unwilling to change one’s mind
alluded – referenced; called attention to
antithesis – the opposite
contorted – bent out of normal shape
copiously – in great abundance
disgruntled – annoyed
fatigued – tired
generated – created
incessantly – without stopping
incredulous – shocked or disbelieving
indulging – taking pleasure in something
irreparable – unable to be repaired
paradox – a statement that seems to contradict itself, but actually expresses a truth
premonition – a vision of the future
repercussions – consequences
resolute – firm and determined
resurgence – a renewal or revival
scouring – searching
serpentined – moved like a snake
sustained – prolonged
unflappable – calm in a crisis situation
unwavering – steady or unrelenting
waned – gradually lessened

1. How does Death describe his own appearance?

Death insists that he does not carry a scythe or have the skull-like facial features humans attribute
to him, and he wears a black robe only when the weather is colder. He looks like a human: “You
want to know what I truly look like? I’ll help you out. Find yourself a mirror while I continue.”

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2. Examine the paragraph in “Death’s Diary: 1942” beginning with “They say that war is death’s
best friend…” What literary devices is Death using in this paragraph? How does this para-
graph reiterate Death’s sentiments about his job?

Death asserts that people’s assumption that “war is death’s best friend” is erroneous. He uses a
simile, “war is like the new boss who expects the impossible,” to describe his perception of his
situation. He extends it to a metaphor by personifying war as the “boss” standing “over one’s
shoulder repeating one thing incessantly: ‘Get it done, get it done.’” And though Death works
harder and harder to get the job done, the boss never thanks him, but just demands more. These
sentiments reiterate Death’s earlier assertion that though he may appear “unflappable, unwav-
ering…On the surface,” he is actually “unnerved, untied, and undone” inside.

3. What might the snowman Max and the Hubermanns build symbolize?

Liesel has made it her mission to bring pieces of the outside world—either objects or weather
reports—to Max so that he feels less disconnected from the life he knew before hiding in closets
and basements. The snow she brings in is yet another of Liesel’s attempts to recreate a formerly
ordinary event for her friend. The Hubermanns make snowballs and build a snowman with
Max in the basement, and for a brief period, “they all forgot” the reality of their situation. The
snowman, therefore, symbolizes an escape from reality. Later in the chapter when Max gets
sick, he, too, is compared to a snowman: “He was the second snowman to be melting away
before her eyes, only this one was different.” Unlike the melting snowman in the basement,
though, the colder Max became, “the more he melted.”

4. Based on the title of the chapter, “Fresh Air, an Old Nightmare, and What to Do with a
Jewish Corpse,” what might the reader assume the chapter is about? What do these ideas
actually reference?

Because Max is always wishing for contact with the outside world, the reader might assume that he
does finally get some “fresh air” in this chapter. The “Old Nightmare” could refer to either Liesel’s
or Max’s dreams. The reference to a “Jewish Corpse” suggests that Max will die in this chapter.

By the end of the chapter, the reader knows that the “Fresh Air” refers to Ilsa Herrmann’s open
window, the “Old Nightmare” is Liesel’s modified dream about her brother on the train, and the
“Jewish Corpse” refers only to speculation about what to do with Max’s body should he die.

5. What is the significance of the book Liesel steals in this chapter?

The book is entitled The Dream Carrier. Both Liesel and Max suffer from recurring nightmares—
he of leaving his family and her of her brother’s death. Their dreams “carry” their memories and
their guilt of surviving. She hopes the “words alone [can] nourish him” as she reads to him daily.

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6. What does Death suggest about Ilsa Herrmann’s open window?

Death intimates that Ilsa’s window is not open to invite fresh air but is instead an invitation to
Liesel to come and enjoy her library whenever she wants. Death admits that his view is both
cynical and helpful.

7. Why are the Hubermanns so concerned about the prospect of Max dying?

Hans and Rosa know that there is no easy way to dispose of Max’s body should he die, and there
would be no way they could leave a corpse in the house because of the smell. As Max’s illness
continues and no viable solution presents itself, they fear being caught and put away for good
because hiding a Jew would be an unforgivable offense.

8. How is Liesel’s recurring dream of her brother altered? How does she attempt to interpret
this change?

Liesel has the dream about her brother coughing on the train, but when she goes to lift his face
to hers, the face is Max’s. She wonders if the dream is

• a premonition of Max’s death

• her mind reacting to the conversation she overheard Hans and Rosa having about what to do
about Max if he dies

• an admission that Max has somehow replaced her brother

• a secret wish for Max to die

9. Describe the scene when Rosa comes to Liesel’s school. Why is Rosa behaving this way?

Rosa comes to Liesel’s classroom demanding to speak with her. She makes a scene in the hall-
way about an allegedly missing hairbrush, verbally insulting Liesel so her classmates and
teacher can hear her insults. Only when she pulls Liesel close to her does she whisper the real
reason for her visit: Max is awake. Liesel has previously told Rosa to come and get her if Max
woke up, encouraging her to scream and swear at her like she had done something wrong be-
cause then, “Everyone will believe it.”

10. How is the metaphor of “the boss” reiterated at the end of the chapter? What events does
Death foreshadow?

In “Death’s Diary: 1942,” Death compares war to “a new boss.” Here, too, at the end of “Fresh
Air, and Old Nightmare, and What to Do with a Jewish Corpse,” Death further develops that
same metaphor: “Yes, the boss was at my shoulder. ‘Get it done, get it done.’” This time, Death
foreshadows the bombing of several major cities including Lübeck, Cologne, and Munich.

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11. Who is “The Visitor”? How does Liesel help to defuse the situation in this chapter? What
is Max’s reaction to this situation?

“The Visitor” refers to the representative from the Nazi Party who is inspecting basements to
determine if they are suitable as bomb shelters. With a party member watching, Liesel fakes an
injury during a soccer game and is carried home by Hans. That same party member then comes
to the door to inspect the basement and has a cheerful interaction with Liesel, “the maniacal
soccer player.” He determines that their home is not suitable and leaves.

Liesel and the Hubermanns find Max huddled under the stairs “holding his rusty scissors like
a knife.” Though he claims he would not have used them, Max is clearly desperate and deeply
sorry for having put them through such an ordeal.

12. Discuss Death’s description of death in the gas chambers in “Death’s Diary: The Parisians.”

Death, in great detail, describes what must have been the last living moments of the Jews in the
gas chambers. They “scour[ed] for gaps in the door,” their fingernails had “scratched at the
wood and in some cases were nailed into it by the sheer force of desperation.”

13. What is one of the primary functions of both the first and last chapters of Part Six? Why
are the two chapter titles significant?

More so than any previous section of the novel, these two chapters serve to humanize Death.
Both chapter titles are similarly constructed and alert the reader to Death’s direct address to
his audience by noting that they are diary entries: “Death’s Diary: 1942” and “Death’s Diary:
The Parisians.” These chapters allow him to provide extensive commentary on his own feelings
about his “job” and his attitude towards the human race in general, not just towards the central
characters of the novel.

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Part Seven: “Champagne and Accordions” – “The Sound of Sirens”

Vocabulary

absolution – forgiveness
acquittal – found innocent from the charge of a crime
bulbous – bulblike in shape
compiling – collecting information from different sources
disorientation – the state of being confused or having one’s perception impaired
formidable – inspiring fear or respect
gargantuan – enormous
grapple – to wrestle
insignia – a badge or symbol
intuition – instinctual ability to understand the truth
nonplussed – confused
opus – a masterpiece
procession – an orderly line of people
recoiling – drawing back in fear or disgust
seduce – to attract and corrupt
stoic – emotionless

1. How are the motifs of painting and colors represented in “Champagne and Accordions”?
And how do these motif serve to characterize Hans Hubermann?

The residents of Molching are preparing for being bombed by blackening their windows to
cover the lights in the house at night. Though this is an “uneasy development” for the town, it
brings Hans Hubermann much painting work. The reader is already well aware of Hans Hu-
bermann’s extreme generosity and compassion, and these qualities are shown here. He turns no
one away, even if he is out of black paint; he finds some way to mix colors in just the right way
to block out “the window light from enemy eyes.” He never tells people just to use blankets to
cover their windows because he knows they will need them when winter comes, and he often
paints for merely a cookie, a cup of tea, or half a cigarette.

2. Identify one small detail Hans reveals about when he first knew Rosa.

Hans tells Liesel that when he first met Mama, she was both beautiful and soft-spoken. He
humorously adds, “Hard to believe, I know, but absolutely true.”

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3. Note the three Duden Dictionary definitions in this section and each word’s relevance within
the context in which it occurs.

In “Champagne and Accordions,” the word Happiness is defined. For now, Liesel, the Hubermanns,
and Max are safe and relatively happy given the circumstances, but Death warns that “Hard times
are coming.”

In “The Trilogy,” the word Forgiveness is defined. Ilsa Hermann’s letter states that she forgives
Liesel for stealing her books and prompts Liesel to contemplate forgiving Ilsa for firing Mama.

In “The Sound of Sirens,” the word Fear is defined in direct reference to the actions and feelings
of the neighbors and friends huddled in the bomb shelter together. Death says he knows “that
all of those people would have sensed me that night.”

4. Describe the events in the chapter “The Trilogy.” What is peculiar about Rudy’s behavior?
What does Liesel speculate as to the reasons for his behavior?

In August of 1942, the Hitler Youth hosts an athletic carnival, and Rudy is determined to win the
1500m, 400m, 200m, and 100m running events both to impress his current Hitler Youth leaders
and to flaunt his skills in front of Franz Deutscher. He wins the first three events effortlessly, but
then has several false starts for the 100m; these disqualify him from the race. He later tells Liesel
that he lost the race on purpose and even intentionally neglects to pick up his first place medals.
Liesel speculates that perhaps he felt that the three medals proved what he had set out to prove or
that he was afraid of losing the last race. Ultimately, she decides that he must have thrown the
race “because he isn’t Jesse Owens,” his idol who won four gold medals in the 1936 Olympics.

5. Note Death’s “point for later reference” with regards to Rudy.

Death notes that not only is Rudy now recognized as a good student, but also as a gifted athlete.
These two facts must become important later in the novel.

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6. Describe the content and tone of Ilsa Hermann’s note to Liesel. In what ways might this
note change the reader’s opinion about Ilsa?

Ilsa’s letter starts out with an admission that she knows Liesel finds her “pathetic and loathsome,”
but defends herself in saying that she is not as stupid as Liesel must think. She tells Liesel that she
knows that she has been stealing books from the library because she can see the outline of Liesel’s
feet on the floor. The tone of the opening paragraph suggests that Ilsa is angry or upset with Liesel,
but then it immediately shifts with Ilsa’s remark that Liesel’s footprints “made me smile.” Ilsa says
that she is glad Liesel took what was rightfully hers, and though she should have been angry that
Liesel continued to steal, she was actually glad to have someone enjoying the books. She even invites
Liesel to come whenever she wants to but that she should “knock on the front door and enter the
library in a more civilized manner.” She closes the letter with an apology for firing Rosa and a hope
that the dictionary and thesaurus will prove useful as she reads her “stolen books.”

Prior to this letter, the reader sees only a one-dimensional portrait of Ilsa as a somewhat strange
and pitiful individual who never speaks. Here, despite the brevity of the letter, Ilsa has a strong
voice. She now appears not defensive or pathetic, but smart and compassionate.

7. Where do the Hubermanns go for the first air raid? Describe the action and mood in this scene.

After contemplating staying in their own home with Max, the Hubermanns, through Max’s
insistence, go to the Fiedlers’ house instead. In all, there are twenty-two of them in the base-
ment. The mood is fearful and nervous. The people are fearful and anticipatory: “what was
most prominent in the cellar was a kind of nonmovement. Their bodies were welded together…
Stillness was shackled to their faces.”

8. What important distinction does Death make between the Germans in the air raid shelters
and the Jews? What is his attitude towards each as a result?

Death notes that even though being in an air raid shelter preparing for the possibility of a bomb
may be frightening, at least they had a chance to survive, and “life was still achievable.” This
is in direct contrast to the Jews heading to the gas chambers where there is positively no hope.
Death admits that he pities the Germans cramped in their basements but not nearly as much
as he feels for “the ones [he] scooped up” from the death camps.

9. What does Max admit to doing while the Hubermanns and Liesel were at the Fiedlers’ house?
What might surprise the reader about his admission? What is Papa’s reaction?

Max tells them that while everyone was out, he went upstairs and briefly looked out the window
at the stars which, he says, “burned my eyes.” Though Death gives numerous dates throughout
the novel, the reader may not realize that Max has not seen the outside world for twenty-two
months. Papa, who has every right to be angry that Max potentially put them at risk by com-
ing upstairs, merely asks, “How did it look?” Hans understands how frustrating Max’s life must
be and knows that seeing the stars is just something he needed to do, much like Hans’s action of
painting over the racial slurs on the Jewish shop owner’s door earlier in the novel had to be done.

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Part Seven: “The Sky Stealer” – “The Idiot and the Coat Men”

Vocabulary

akin – like; similar to


clamored – made a loud uproar
conceived – thought up
consolations – comforting words given after a loss or disappointment
derision – ridicule
din – a loud, unpleasant, and disordered noise
flak – anti-aircraft fire
futile – hopeless
hapless – unfortunate
literally – according to the exact meaning of the words
nonchalance – indifference
plastered – laid flat against something
shuffling – walking by dragging one’s feet
subdue – to calm
temerity – boldness
wayward – movement that is irregular and unable to be predicted

1. How does the chapter “The Sky Stealer” emphasize the theme of the power of words?

While in the Fiedlers’ basement for another air raid, Liesel tries to distract herself by reading
from The Whistler. Soon, Rudy is listening, then his siblings, then “everyone was silent but
Liesel.” The first time they were all in the shelter, everyone was attempting to distract them-
selves in various ways, none of which worked. Here, Liesel’s words have the power to comfort
them and provide them with a temporary escape from the paralyzing fear of their situation.

2. Explain the significance of Death’s comment: “A voice played the notes inside her. This,
it said, is your accordion.”

Students may recall that earlier in the novel, Liesel says that she does not want to learn how to
play the accordion because she would never be able to move people the way that Hans’s play-
ing does. Here, however, Liesel has found another medium to move people in a similar way—
through the written word. Reading the book aloud stirs the music within her, and she is able to
transport those around her to a safer, more peaceful place, if only briefly.

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3. Given the information known about Frau Holtzapfel’s character, how might her curious
offer to Rosa and Liesel be explained?

Frau Holtzapfel makes a habit of tormenting Rosa, in particular, and regularly spits on the Hu-
bermanns’ front door. The fact that she comes to request anything of Rosa is strange. She asks
if Liesel can come twice a week to read The Whistler to her in exchange for her coffee ration
and cessation of spitting on their door. Ironically, she seems to wish that they had reason to be
back in the air raid shelter so that she could hear more of the story. Clearly, Frau Holtzapfel’s
desire for Liesel’s magical storytelling supersedes her negative feelings towards Rosa.

4. Describe the tone created in “The Long Walk to Dachau.”

The narrator first describes the convoy of trucks stopping, one of the prisoners collapsing, and the
other Jews’ wishes to be spared the same fate. When one of the soldiers offers to let the Jews out
for some fresh air, the reader may temporarily believe this to be an act of kindness. However, the
response of a fellow soldier sets the tense tone for the rest of the chapter: “And it’s perfect weather
for a parade, don’t you think?” To the Nazis, the Jews are merely sub-humans to be put on dis-
play for ridicule and entertainment. The tension builds as Liesel, Rudy, and Hans look on at the
show of misery before them. Further contributing to the tension is Death’s foreshadowing remark:
“They could not be saved, and in a few minutes, she would see what would happen to those who
might try to help them.” Hans does realize the damage his kindness may have caused to both his
family and to Max and says, “Oh my God, Liesel, what have I done?”

5. Explain the role reversal between Hans and Liesel in this section. What advice did Hans
give to Liesel earlier that he is now himself ignoring?

Earlier in the novel, Hans slaps Liesel for publicly saying that she hates the Führer. He assures
her that she can “say it in our house…But you never say it on the street.” Here, Hans publicly
helps a Jew in front of the Nazis. Though his act of treason is not a verbal one like Liesel’s, the
consequences can be the same.

6. Why does Death insist that the Duden Dictionary “was completely and utterly mistaken,
especially with its related words”?

The dictionary’s definition of silence is: “The absence of sound or noise. Related words: quiet,
calmness, peace.” For the Hubermanns, the absence of Max has not brought peace at all. In-
stead, it has brought Hans worry about how Max will survive and guilt for why he had to leave.
Hans suffers from anxiety and paranoia that the Gestapo will appear at any moment to take
him away; he almost wishes they would. “Hans Hubermann needed vindication. He needed to
know that Max Vandenburg had left his house for good reason.” The house may be quiet, but it
is certainly not calm or peaceful for any of them.

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7. Identify the greatest source of tension in “The Idiot and the Coat Men.” What is the result?

Suspense builds throughout the chapter as Hans waits for the Gestapo to come, yet three weeks
pass and nothing happens. Finally, Liesel spots “two men in their long black coats,” and she runs
to warn Papa. The reader, justifiably, assumes that they have finally come for him. He runs out
after them as they walk past, admitting his guilt: “Hey! I’m right here. It’s me you want. I live in
this one.” However, Hans is not who they are looking for: “The coat men wanted Rudy.”

8. What are the five Duden Dictionary definitions in this section and each word’s relevance
within the context in which it occurs?

In “The Sky Stealer,” the word Word is defined. Liesel discovers the power of words to comfort
and provide an escape for her neighbors in the air raid shelter.

In “Frau Holtzapfel’s Offer,” the word Opportunity is defined. Frau Holtzapfel comes to the
Hubermanns to ask if Liesel can come and read to her in exchange for her coffee ration. Rosa
agrees to the opportunity to gain something for her family.

In “The Long Walk to Dachau,” the word Misery is defined. The Nazis parade the Jews headed
to Dachau, displaying their misery to all bystanders.

In “Peace,” the word Silence is defined. Though the Hubermanns have spent months trying to
keep Max silent to hide their secret, now that there is no sound at all, Liesel realizes that silence
has not brought them peace at all.

In “The Idiot and the Coat Men,” the word Regret is defined. Hans Hubermann has bitter regret
over jeopardizing Max’s safety by giving bread to the Jew. And he regrets having let him leave
at all since the Gestapo has still not come for him: “He needed to know that Max Vandenburg
had left his house for good reason.”

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Part Eight

Vocabulary

abject – awful; miserable


agitators – people who inspire rebellions
arid – lacking excitement or interest; dry
compulsory – required
dais – a raised platform
deliriously – in an absent-minded state of mind
haunches – back legs
marooned – stranded and isolated
miscreants – people who break rules or laws
opportune – ideal; well-chosen
perilous – dangerous
preoccupation – a concern or worry
undeterred – undiscouraged

1. Explain the chronology in plot for the first two chapters of Part Eight. Why are they ordered
in this way?

The action of the second chapter, “The Thought of Rudy Naked,” actually occurs before the
action of “Dominoes and Darkness.” Rudy is able to talk about what had happened at school
the previous week and finally confide in Liesel only after the men from the Gestapo come to
his home. The second chapter is, therefore, a flashback of what Rudy experienced during the
medical examination. He tells Liesel in great detail what must have led to the “coat men’s” visit.
Though he had hoped that Olaf Spiegel was the other choice for the “new class of physically
and mentally advanced Germans…The coat men knew who was third.” It was Rudy.

2. Explain the significance of Death’s comment, “Again, the human child. So much cannier”
in “Dominoes and Darkness.”

When Kurt inquires about the arguing between his parents and the coat men in the kitchen,
his sister Bettina, only five years old, replies, “There are two monsters…They’ve come for
Rudy.” Even with no knowledge of the particulars of the situation, Bettina is able to assess the
situation for what it is. Death has repeatedly commented on the uncanny ability of children to
understand concepts and situations that elude adults entirely. Bettina’s astute observation is yet
another example of that ability.

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3. Identify the symbolism present in “Dominoes and Darkness” and explain the meaning.

The controlling symbol in this chapter is the dominoes the Steiner children are playing with. They
tap a different domino and watch them fall until the central tower is “brought to its knees.” Kurt
Steiner observes that “they look like dead bodies.” When Rudy asks his parents what transpired
in the kitchen with the coat men, they will not “disclose what was said while the dominoes were
falling like dead bodies in the living room.” The dominoes represent the fallen soldiers, blindly
following Hitler’s orders and namelessly, pointlessly dying in the process. Rudy’s parents are try-
ing to protect him from such a fate.

4. What does Death say might have happened if Rudy had intervened and let the coat men
take him?

Death says that perhaps if Rudy had listened a little longer at the door and offered himself to
the coat men, Alex Steiner would not have suffered the same way as Hans and that Rudy might
have gone away to school and survived the war.

5. Cite two examples from Part Eight that indicate a change in Liesel’s feelings towards Rudy.

In “The Thought of Rudy Naked,” Liesel finds that she cannot stop thinking about the details of
Rudy’s medical exam, “especially the moment when he was forced to remove his hands” and stand
completely naked. Later, in “The Anarchist’s Suit Collection,” when Rudy comes towards her,
“Liesel had to admit that a nervousness started gripping her,” and when he falls, she “crouched
above him,” as if to kiss him. Liesel’s feelings of friendship for Rudy are becoming more romantic.

6. To what is Death alluding when he says, “For others it was poverty and guilt when the war
was over, when six million discoveries were made throughout Europe.”

Answers may vary. Example: Death is referring to the extermination of the Jews during World
War II. After the war, it was discovered that approximately six million Jews were murdered in
Hitler’s death camps. Though many Germans might have speculated about what was happen-
ing in these camps, particularly towards the end of the war, it is likely that few citizens knew of
the enormity of Hitler’s extermination plot, thus the “guilt.” On the other hand, some students
may interpret Death’s comment as sarcastic, as many ordinary Germans were aware that geno-
cide was part of Hitler’s plans.

While not in The Book Thief, Hitler does express hatred of and revulsion towards Jews in Mein
Kampf. One telling quote from his book is: “…the personification of the devil as the symbol
of all evil assumes the living shape of the Jew.”

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7. What news does Hans Hubermann initially receive in “Punishment”? Why does the news
appear to be good only “on the surface”?

Hans receives news from the NSDAP that his application for membership in the Nazi Party has
been approved. Given the incident that resulted in a whipping in the street, Hans knows that
there has to be another reason for this alleged “reward” of being allowed into the Party. He is
right. Two days later he receives notice that he has been drafted into the German army with a
warning that, should he not comply, “there would certainly be consequences.”

8. What does the reader learn about the Steiners at the end of “Punishment”?

At the end of the chapter, the reader learns Alex Steiner has also been drafted into the war as
well. Additionally, it appears that perhaps Alex and Barbara Steiner were not necessarily in
agreement about Rudy going to the elite German school. She says, “When they come and ask
you for one of your children…you’re supposed to say yes.”

9. Why does Papa go to the basement when he returns from his night out drinking with Alex
Steiner? What is the result?

Hans Hubermann is so wracked with guilt over his role in Max’s forced departure that he is
punishing himself in every way possible. His mental anguish over the past weeks has led to his
physically punishing himself by sleeping where Max slept and making himself feel that same
sense of isolation and worthlessness. He will not even let himself sleep on Max’s mattress be-
cause he feels he “didn’t deserve” even that level of comfort. The next morning, Rosa throws a
bucket of cold water on Hans to wake him up. When Rosa leaves, Hans asks Liesel if she thinks
Max is still alive. He cannot seem to forgive himself for what he feels was sheer stupidity rather
than an act of supreme kindness to his fellow man.

10. What three things does Hans request of Liesel before he leaves for the army? What are the
effects of his departure on Rosa and Liesel?

Papa asks Liesel to (1) look after Mama; (2) look after his accordion; and (3) keep reading
in the shelter. After Hans leaves, Rosa is not the same—“she didn’t berate”—and Liesel has
no desire to steal anything anymore “no matter how much she tried to convince herself that it
would cheer her up.”

11. What comparison can be drawn between Rudy and Max?

Both Rudy and Max are extremely angry with Hitler for what he has done to their lives. For
Rudy, Hitler has taken away his father, and for Max, he has taken away his life and his dignity.
Both fantasize about killing Hitler—Max with his boxing ring dreams and Rudy who literally
goes looking for him with Liesel.

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12. Describe the “painted image” Liesel witnesses in “The Promise Keeper’s Wife” and explain
how the image serves to further characterize Rosa Hubermann.

Liesel sees Rosa sitting on the edge of her bed holding Hans’s accordion to her chest with her
fingers hovering above the keys. The moonlight is streaming through the window, “like a long
strand of hair in the curtain.” Liesel notes that “there was great beauty in what she was wit-
nessing, and she chose not to disturb it.” The image shows Rosa’s vulnerability, her fear, and
her genuine love for her husband.

13. Explain Hans’s job in the army. How might the reader then draw a parallel between Hans
and Death? And why does Hans struggle so much to write a letter to Liesel and Rosa?

Hans is given “one of the most undesirable positions on the home front. The LSE” or “Air Raid
Special Unit.” The men in his unit tell him that the LSE acronym really stands for “Dead Body
Collectors. (Both acronyms are translated from German.) He is to remain aboveground dur-
ing air raids to put out fires, prop up building walls, and rescue anyone who is trapped.” Like
Death, Hans witnesses numerous horrific acts of violence and grief and, like Death, he has to
carry the dead bodies. In a letter, he cannot find the words to describe such horrors and wonders
if he will ever be able to convey his thoughts even when he returns home.

14. In “The Bread Eaters,” why does Liesel feel conflicted about potentially seeing Max in the
“parade of Jews”?

In each “parade” that occurs, Liesel rushes to see if Max is among the Jews in line, but she
struggles internally with her feelings. If she sees him, she will know that he is still alive, but for
how long? If she does not see him, then he may be alive and free, or he may already be dead.
She does not know which scenario to wish for.

15. Describe the contents of Max’s “Hidden Sketchbook,” particularly the “Word Shaker” section.

There are countless sketches and stories with pictures and captions depicting snapshots of
Max’s life both present and past: the snowman, the thirteen presents, nights by the fire with
the Hubermanns and Liesel, the Führer, his dreams, and his family. The section with the most
detail is “a fable or a fairy tale” entitled The Word Shaker. In it, Hitler plants cruel and hate-
ful words and symbols that grow and flourish and spread throughout the nation. The “word
shakers” are in charge of climbing up the trees to send words down to those people below. Max
depicts Liesel as the best word shaker “because she knew how powerless a person could be
WITHOUT words.” She befriends a man “who was despised by his homeland, even though he
was born in it.” When he falls ill, she cries over him, and from one of the tears, she plants a
seed that grows to be the tallest tree in the forest. Hitler is angered and orders the tree to be cut
down, but 196 soldiers try and fail to cut it down over the course of several seasons. Eventually,
her friend returns and climbs the tree by hammering nails one by one into the tree as he climbs.
When they descend together, the tree collapses, taking down some, but not all, of the forest.

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16. How does the metaphor presented in The Word Shaker help to explain Hitler’s rise to power?

Answers may vary. Example: Hitler is presented as systematically “planting” the seeds of
hate within the people of Germany. His words grow as he plants them “day and night, and
cultivate[s] them” until “it was a nation of farmed thoughts” where people no longer think
for themselves. He also plants seeds to create symbols of hate—the swastika—and these, too,
flourish. The “word shakers” are hired to climb the trees and throw the hateful words down,
thereby reaching more and more people. The “seed” starts with Hitler, who brainwashes his
followers with his message of German superiority and the need for extermination of inferior
races. He then enlists his followers to spread his powerfully persuasive, hateful messages to all
of Germany, else suffer the consequences.

Part Nine

Vocabulary

exert – to apply physical or mental effort


inconsolable – unable to be comforted
indignant – angry
jostled – tossed or bumped about in a rough manner
semblance – the outward appearance

1. What clues in the first full paragraph of “The Next Temptation” alert the reader as to Liesel’s
location? What additional information does the reader learn about Ilsa Hermann from the
first page of this chapter?

The first full paragraph of the chapter references “the desk,” which Liesel has mentioned nu-
merous times on other visits to the Hermann’s library. Additionally, the last phrase in that
paragraph, “thousands of pages,” suggests that she is in a library or a place with a lot of books.
The reader is not told until the following paragraph, but these two clues suggest Liesel is in
Ilsa’s library. The additional information presented is that Liesel has obviously been coming
frequently—the narrator starts the passage with “This time” suggesting that there have been
many other times. Ilsa has left cookies for Liesel and Rudy “this time,” and the narrator inti-
mates that she has been leaving things for them all on other visits as well: “There was no note,
but it didn’t take Liesel long to realize that Ilsa Hermann had been at it again.”

2. On this particular visit, which book does Liesel decide to “steal”?

Liesel takes a book entitled The Last Human Stranger.

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3. What important realization does Liesel make about the library in this chapter? How does
this knowledge make her feel and why?

Liesel initially wonders what the mayor might know about her visits since the cookies have
been there for weeks waiting for her. Then, she feels a “strange optimism” that, perhaps, the
library is Ilsa’s and not the mayor’s at all: “She didn’t know why it was so important, but she
enjoyed the fact that the roomful of books belonged to the woman.” Liesel is pleased because
she and Ilsa share a love of books and it was Ilsa who first introduced her to the library and
invited her to keep coming.

4. Note two humorous references to the Nazi’s influence in the Hermann household.

Ilsa has an embroidered swastika on the breast pocket of her robe and swastikas on the toes of
her slippers.

5. What is the function of the chapter, “The Cardplayer”? What theme does the chapter emphasize?

The chapter serves to introduce a character who works with Hans, Reinhold Zucker. Death
explains that Zucker’s loss in the card game leads to ill feelings for Han, which leads to Zucker
taking Hans’s place on a “fairly innocuous road” a few weeks later. The chapter illustrates the
theme of the role of chance in people’s lives where one small moment can alter the course of
someone’s entire life.

6. What new information does Rosa learn about her son, and what is her reaction?

After telling Rosa about the fate of his brother Robert, Michael tells her that he had heard that
her son was also in Stalingrad and was alive, as far as he knew. Rosa, who did not even know
that Hans Junior was in Russia, cannot believe it; the last time she had seen him was when he
left abruptly after an argument with his father at Christmas. Liesel watches Rosa’s face as she
takes in the news: “It lifted and dropped in the same moment.” Now, she at least knows that he
might be alive, but she also must face the fact that he is in a dangerous war zone in Russia, the
same place that took Robert’s life and left Michael a crippled,“oldened young man.”

7. Briefly relate the details of Robert Holtzapfel’s death. What comment does Death make
about “taking” Robert?

On a cold and icy day in Stalingrad, Russia, in 1943, Robert loses his legs in an explosion. He
is taken to the same hospital where his brother Michael is being treated for his hand. Michael
is set to leave at the end of the week but tells Robert that he will wait for him until he gets bet-
ter, but his brother lasts only for “three very long days.” Death says that he was “very much
invited” to the hospital suggesting that Robert welcomes death.

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8. Explain the significance of the following quotation: “Three languages interwove. The
Russian, the bullets, the German.”

Death is speaking about the “language” of war. The Germans and the Russians cannot com-
municate verbally, but they both understand the language of bullets.

9. What does the closing paragraph of “The Snows of Stalingrad” indicate about Liesel?

The final paragraph illustrates Liesel’s ability to bring some semblance of comfort to Frau
Holtzapfel through her reading. The book is her accordion, and she feels good about the fact
that she has a purpose, despite all the misery of this war.

10. Explain the significance of the chapter title “The Ageless Brother.”

When Liesel goes to return Ilsa Hermann’s cookie plate, she knocks on the door, leaves, and
does not look back for fear of seeing her brother at the bottom of the steps again. In addition
to him haunting her dreams, her brother Werner repeatedly appears on the Hermann’s steps.
Liesel then realizes that death halts people in time and they become ageless: “It was with great
sadness that she realized that her brother would be six forever, but when she held that thought,
she also made an effort to smile.” She goes to the bridge on the Amper River and smiles at the
thought of her young brother; she “smiled and smiled” until all her emotions “came out” and
was then finally released from her nightmares of Werner’s cough and death on the train.

11. Who are the members of the “cast” of characters who appear to Liesel at night in her room,
and what is each person doing?

Papa is there and calls her “half a woman,” Max is writing The Word Shaker in the corner of
the room, Rudy is naked by the door, her mother stands on a bedside train platform, and her
brother plays in the cemetery snow.

12. How does the quotation Liesel remembers from The Last Human Stranger parallel her own
feelings?

Liesel remembers a quotation from The Last Human Stranger: “There were people everywhere
on the city street, but the stranger could not have been more alone if it were empty.” Though
Liesel is surrounded by a “cast” of people she cares about as she drifts off to sleep, none of those
people is with her now, and three of them are dead. Liesel feels vulnerable and alone just as “the
stranger” does.

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13. Describe the details of “The Accident.”

As Hans and the other soldiers are climbing into the truck, Reinhold Zucker insists that Hans
must move from his seat in the back so that he can have the seat. Though Hans is confused
because the back seat is uncomfortable and cold, he complies to avoid further conflict and
moves to the middle of the front seat. The left front tire blows, the driver loses control of the
car, and the vehicle rolls over numerous times. Several of the men are injured, including Hans
whose leg is broken, and Zucker is killed. Hans says, “It should have been me.”

14. Why does Sergeant Schipper intend to tell his superiors that Hans is “not fit for the LSE”?
What does this say about his character?

Schipper wants Hans to be able to go home even after his leg heals, so he plans to tell his
superiors that Hans should be sent back to Munich to work in the office “or do whatever
cleaning up needs doing there.” He likes Hans as a person and finds him to be a generous man,
particularly with the cigarettes. Schipper displays humor and compassion in this scene, and he
is clearly not afraid to work the system to help his men get out of the war.

15. Describe the contents of “Rudy’s Toolbox.” Which item is odd? How does Rudy later
explain the inclusion of this item to Liesel?

Rudy puts a pocket knife, a flashlight, two hammers, a hand towel, three screwdrivers, a ski
mask, clean socks, and a teddy bear into a shoe box in preparation for his stealing venture. The
bear seems to be completely out of place, but Rudy explains that he intends to use the bear to
distract any children who might walk in while he is stealing.

16. Why does Rudy tell Liesel, “You’re not a thief at all”? What important distinction does he
make about the nature of stealing? And what does he realize about himself?

Rudy insists that Liesel’s actions at the Hermanns’ do not constitute theft because Ilsa just lets
her in and even leaves her cookies. He says that “stealing is what the army does. Taking your
father and mine.” Shortly after he sets out with his toolbox, Rudy realizes that he is “better at
leaving things behind than stealing them” and leaves his socks on the road.

17. How do various people try to coax Frau Holtzapfel out of her home for the air raid? What
ultimately persuades her to leave?

Michael tries and fails to get his mother to come out. Rosa Hubermann yells at her to “get out
here, you miserable old swine!” and attempts to make her feel guilty by saying they will all
die in the street if she does not come out. Liesel asks if she can go in and try and she considers
several options for persuasion, finally settling on a threat that she will not come back to read
to her anymore. Though she does not come immediately, Frau Holtzapfel enters the shelter
shortly after Liesel’s visit.

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18. What comparison can be drawn between Michael Holtzapfel and Max in terms of their
attitude towards survival?

While in the shelter, Michael repeatedly says that he should not have left his mother and asks
Rosa, “Why do I want to live? I shouldn’t want to but I do.” Michael not only shares Max’s fierce
survival instinct, but also his guilt over having left family behind to save himself.

19. How does the teddy bear function as a symbol in “One Toolbox, One Bleeder, One Bear”?

The teddy bear symbolizes comfort. When Rudy initially packs the toolbox, he plans to use
the bear to appease any small children who might interrupt his stealing spree. Later, when
he repacks the box with valuables from the Steiner household to bring to the air raid shelter,
he leaves the bear in the box, presumably to calm children in the shelter, if needed. Ironically,
Rudy’s intention to use the bear for comfort is fulfilled at the end of the chapter when they dis-
cover the enemy pilot in the crashed plane by the river. Rudy places the “smiling teddy bear”
on the pilot’s shoulder and “the dying man breathed it in” and said, in English, “Thank you”
before dying. This small gesture from Rudy brings the “enemy” peace in the wake of his death.
Rudy, however, does not even hear the pilot’s response.

20. Describe the narrator’s attitude towards both humans and himself as presented at the end
of this chapter.

The most telling comment Death makes about himself in this section is, “Could she hear my
cursed circular heartbeat, revolving like the crime it is in my deathly chest?” Of particular
note are the words cursed and crime, signifying Death’s dark attitude of self-condemnation. He
closes the chapter by explaining that, in contrast to his circular heart, the human heart “is a
line,” and he sees humans exhibiting their “best and worst,” their “ugly and their beauty,” and
wonders “how the same thing can be in both.” This dichotomy in humanity perplexes him, and
he envies that they “have the good sense to die,” which he will never be able to do.

21. What is the foreshadowing at the end of “Homecoming”?

Though Hans is now safely home, and Liesel feels “the calm, the warm, and the soft” of his
presence, Death warns that this state of comfort will last for three more months only, “[b]ut her
story lasts for six.”

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Part Ten

Vocabulary

alleviated – made free of pain or suffering; lessened


anarchist – a person who believes in a society without a government
bereaved – suffered from the loss of a loved one
cantered – galloped
detriment – a state of being harmed or disadvantaged
entwined – twisted together
insolent – disrespectful
irretrievable – unable to be fixed
lustrous – glowing; bright
unkempt – disordered; untidy
vantage – a viewpoint

1. What is the primary function of the first chapter in Part Ten?

Death reveals in this first chapter that Himmel Street will be bombed and that the only survivor
will be Liesel, who is saved because she is in the basement reading. Death creates the tension
that pervades the entire last section of the novel.

2. Explain the significance of the chapter title “The Ninety-Eighth Day.”

Death has already alerted the reader in “Homecoming” to the fact that for Liesel, the “calm, the
warm, and the soft would remain for approximately three more months” after Hans comes home.

Those three months are at an end, and now it is “the ninety-eighth day.” The reader knows that now
the events of the novel will shift to the grim details leading up to the bombing and the aftermath.

3. How and why does Michael Holtzapfel kill himself?

Michael hangs himself from the rafters of the laundry room of a shop near Frau Diller’s. Though
Michael’s letter to his mother indicates that he just “can’t stand it any longer” and that he wants to
be with his brother, Death learns from Liesel’s writings that he killed himself “for wanting to live.”

4. Characterize Hans Hubermann’s actions in this chapter.

As the reader has seen countless times before in the novel, Hans Hubermann acts like the quiet hero.
He is asked to deliver the news of Michael’s death to his mother and does so with grace and com-
passion. He does not even need to say anything to her because the message is written “on his face.”
He sits with her, he places his hand on hers, and he “allow[s] her screams to fill the streets.” Hans
Hubermann has a knack for understanding exactly what people need and when they need it.

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5. What information does the reader learn about the progress of the war and Death’s attitude
toward Hitler in “The War Maker”?

The reader learns that the Allies have bombed Hamburg and 45,000 people were killed. Despite
this supposed setback, Hitler does not scale back his “war-making” efforts or the extermina-
tion and punishment of the Jews. Death mentions Hitler’s “iron will,” but also condescendingly
refers to him as having “pimply little knees” that “were starting to shake.”

6. What pivotal piece of hopeful information does the reader learn at the end of this chapter?

Max Vandenburg is alive.

7. Describe the details of the scene on Munich Street in “Way of the Words.”

Liesel searches the faces of the “parade” of Jews on Munich Street looking for Max and finds him
because he is the only Jew who looks into the crowd of German spectators, rather than looking
down or straight ahead. She runs to him, and he cannot believe how much she has grown. He begs
her to leave, but she refuses. Though a soldier physically throws her aside, she returns to Max and
speaks his own words from The Word Shaker. He holds her hand to his face and cries just before
she is dragged away. Both of them are whipped in the street as punishment, and Max is forced to
walk on. Liesel tries to catch up to Max again, but Rudy tackles her to the ground.

8. Explain the significance of the quotation regarding Liesel and Max: “She had seen him
afraid, but never like this.”

Though Max has lived with fear for years in darkened basements in hiding, on the run, and
now in a line of Jews headed for Dachau, none of that fear equals his panicked terror of what
will happen to Liesel at the hands of the Nazi soldier. Because he loves and cares for her so
much, his fear for her safety far outweighs his own.

9. Why does Liesel choose to quote words from Max’s own writings? What is Max’s reaction
to those words?

Liesel wants Max to remember how he used to fight Hitler in his dreams and win. He has, at
last, seen Liesel again and she has shown great love and loyalty towards him. He thinks that
now would be “a great day to die.”

10. Why does Liesel seem to welcome the soldier’s whip?

Liesel recalls the day when she had hoped either Ilsa or Rosa would slap her, but neither of
them would do it. “On this occasion, she was not let down.” Liesel desires not only to suffer for
her own misdeeds, but also to experience some semblance of Max’s own suffering firsthand.

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11. How does the chapter “Confessions” serve as a turning point in Liesel and Rudy’s relationship?

Prior to this chapter, Liesel has not trusted Rudy with the stories of her own family or of Max.
Here, she tells him everything. Rudy is most struck by the fact that Liesel told Max enough about
him for him to appear in The Word Shaker. Rudy understands that she has feelings for him as
well. Liesel even wishes that Rudy would kiss her: “She wanted him to drag her hand across and
pull her over. It didn’t matter where. Her mouth, her neck, her cheek. Her skin was empty for it,
waiting.” Their relationship has grown to one of trust and genuine love.

12. Explain Liesel’s conflicted feelings about words as seen in “Ilsa Hermann’s Little Black Book.”

Liesel goes to Ilsa Hermann’s library to cheer herself up, but her bitterness towards the world
she lives in taints her ability to enjoy the words. She begs the words not to make her happy
because there is so much unhappiness in the world. She pleads, “Please, don’t fill me up and
let me think something good can come of this.” In anger and frustration, Liesel tears the book
apart until there are only scraps of paper surrounding her. The most difficult realization she
makes is that without words, “the Führer was nothing.” Words give him power over people,
and without them, “there would be no limping prisoners” like Max. Liesel loves words but sees
the evil they can cause.

13. Describe the content of Liesel’s letter to Ilsa Hermann. What is Ilsa’s reaction to the letter,
and how does it further characterize her?

Liesel apologizes to Ilsa Hermann for stealing and for ruining her book. She tells Ilsa that she is
going to punish herself by not coming to the library anymore and relays her conflicted feelings:
“I love this place and hate it, because it’s full of words.” Three days later, Ilsa Hermann comes to
33 Himmel Street to give Liesel a black book full of paper for Liesel to write her own stories. She
begs Liesel not to be like her, not to punish herself for things that are out of her control. The two
sit and have coffee, and Liesel promises to show Ilsa if she ever writes something. Ilsa Hermann
has developed into a forceful and influential person in Liesel’s life. She invited her in to the library
and introduced her to the joy of words and now offers her the challenge of finding her own voice.
In addition, Ilsa inadvertently saves Liesel’s life by giving her “a reason to spend time in the base-
ment” where she avoids the fate of nearly everyone else on Himmel Street.

14. What do Death’s descriptions and feelings as he takes each soul on Himmel Street reveal
about him?

When death begins to describe Rudy, he seems truly anguished. “He does something to me, that
boy. Every time…He steps on my heart. He makes me cry.” He notes that Papa’s soul has an
“immense magnetic pull toward the basement” to rescue Liesel. Even in death, Papa wants to
protect and comfort her. When Death takes Rosa, he humorously notes that if she had seen him,
“I’m sure she would have called me Saukerl.” He insists that she had a bigger heart than most
people thought she did. These feelings reveal that Death is more human than he originally ap-
peared at the beginning of the novel.

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15. When the men from the LSE pull Liesel out of the basement, what is her immediate reac-
tion? How does the reader know that Liesel is in shock?

Liesel wails and screams for Hans Hubermann. Shortly after, though, she forgets her screams
and tells the LSE that they need to go into the house to get her mama and papa and Max from
the basement.

16. At what moment does Liesel know that the body the men are carrying is Rudy’s? What
“amazes” Death about Liesel in this scene?

Only when Liesel sees the boy’s hair “the color of lemons” does she realize the body they are
carrying is Rudy’s. She screams out that she loves him, a sentiment she has been feeling for
some time but was not brave enough to speak.

Death is amazed that Liesel, after bearing such grief, can so quickly get up and leave Rudy
without saying goodbye: “It amazes me what humans can do, even when streams are flowing
down their faces and they stagger on, coughing and searching, and finding.”

17. How does Death come to have possession of Liesel’s black book?

Liesel drops The Book Thief when she sees Rudy’s dead body and forgets about it. It is stepped
on several times and eventually thrown onto a garbage truck where Death retrieves it.

Epilogue

Vocabulary

demise – death; destruction


liberation – a state of being set free

1. What does the reader learn about the course of Liesel’s life in “Death and Liesel”? What
does Death say about her soul when he comes to take her?

Liesel lives a long life. She marries, has three children and grandchildren, and lives in a suburb
of Sydney at a house numbered forty-five, just like the Fiedlers’ shelter. Death says that when
he comes to collect Liesel, “her soul was sitting up” just like Papa’s.

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2. Explain the details of the flashback with regards to the Hermann’s role in “Wood in the
Afternoon.” What can the reader assume about Liesel’s future?

The reader learns that after the Himmel Street bombing, Ilsa Hermann hears that a girl survived;
Ilsa and her husband come to the police station to collect Liesel. Ilsa sits with Liesel in the back
seat of the car and holds her hand on top of Papa’s accordion case. The reader can assume that
Liesel lives with the Hermanns until moving to Sydney.

3. What is Alex Steiner’s main regret?

Alex Steiner regrets not having let Rudy go to the Nazi school. If he had, he might have survived.

4. What does Liesel tell Alex Steiner when he comes to find her? Why does she feel the need
to tell him this and what is his reaction?

Liesel tells him about the kiss she gave Rudy, and Alex Steiner is “sawn apart” with tears and
a smile by the weight and poignancy of the moment, knowing how his son felt about Liesel. She
intuitively understands that a father would like to know such a detail about his son.

5. Explain the significance of the last sentence of “Wood in the Afternoon.”

The last sentence in this chapter is, “A silver afternoon.” Hans Hubermann’s eyes are repeatedly
referred to as “silver” throughout the novel. Her papa is now watching over her from above.

6. What happens in October of 1945? Why is this event particularly miraculous?

Max comes to Alex Steiner’s shop asking for Liesel. When she comes out and sees that he is alive,
they hug and cry and fall to the floor. The reader might have justifiably assumed that Max was
dead, particularly after the scene in the street with the “parade of Jews” where it appeared that
Max was marching to his death at Dachau.

7. When Death goes to collect Liesel’s soul, what is he able to do that he has been wanting
to do for a long time? What is Liesel’s reaction?

Death is able to return Liesel’s book to her and show her that he has been carrying The Book
Thief around with him for her entire life. She cannot believe that it is the same book but knows
when she opens it that they are her words.

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8. Explain the significance of Liesel’s question and Death’s answer in this final scene.

Liesel asks Death an astonishingly perceptive question about her book: “Could you understand
it?” Even as an aged adult, Liesel shows the perception of a child and wonders, ironically, how
Death could understand a book about loss and grief. Death’s “great pause” confirms for Liesel
the difficulty Death has in understanding humans. He wants to tell her of his conflicted feelings
towards the “ugly and so glorious” human race, how he is “constantly overestimating and un-
derestimating” humanity and finds their stories simultaneously “damning and brilliant.” But all
Death is able to muster in reply to her question, encapsulating the complicated contradiction of
his own feelings, is: “I am haunted by humans.”

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The Book Thief


Prologue

Vocabulary

abhorrence – disgust, hatred


affable – good-natured
amiable – sociable and friendly
array – an assortment
buckled – collapsed or gave in
compelled – felt driven to do something
concoction – something created using various parts or ingredients
deliberate – thought-out
disjointed – pieced together; lacking unison
diverse – having variety
fanatical – obsessed with a single idea
formulate – to create using a formula or method
gauging – judging, measuring, or determining the state of something
genially – warmly and kind-heartedly
hindered – prevented or held back
increments – additions in fixed amounts
intersect – to divide into parts by something passing through
intonations – pitches or tones, usually made by the voice
jittered – trembled with nervousness
legion – a group of people or things
murky – hazy; gloomy
perched – sitting on an unstable object
perpetual – never-ending
poles – positions that are opposite of each other
protestations – expressions of disapproval
resigned – yielded or submitted to
ruptured – burst or exploded
septic – infected or polluted
spectated – watched; witnessed
spectrum – a series of colors that blend from one into the next like a rainbow
traipsing – walking without plans; wandering
trepidation – nervousness or anxiousness
variables – differences or options in a single category
versatility – the ability to adapt or change
wavered – hesitated; swayed or trembled with indecision

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1. According to Death, what is the most difficult part of his job? Why does he need a distraction,
and what is this distraction?

2. Who or what is “the book thief”?

3. In the Prologue, how many times does Death say he encounters the book thief? Describe
these events.

4. How does Death acquire the book thief’s book?

5. What symbol is made from the red, white, and black colors associated with the sky and
the book thief? What does the symbol signify?

6. What does Death say the book thief’s stories will prove to the reader?

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Part One: “Arrival on Himmel Street” – “The Woman with the Iron Fist”

Vocabulary

aggravate – to annoy; irritate


auspicious – favorable; foretelling good fortune
berate – to scold
callous – cold and unsympathetic; harsh
cannier – more clever or perceptive
castigate – to reprimand or criticize
corroded – worn away; rusted
deluge – a flood
differentiate – to recognize differences
echelons – ranks or levels in an organization
enviable – jealous
eventuated – came to be; resulted in an event
extracted – removed from something
hasten – to be quick to do something
hiatus – a break from something in a sequence
illustrious – famous and respected
impoverished – poor
incense – to make angry
inkling – a suspicion
innocuously – harmlessly
misleadence – the ability to deceive
moderately – to a fair or reasonable extent
passively – without resistance
ponderous – slow and awkward
prolific – produced in a great amount
raucous – loud and disorderly
trudged – moved slowly and with great effort
trundle – to move slowly
vacated – left or abandoned
vehement – intense; forceful

1. What happens in Liesel’s dream about Hitler? What does it reveal about her feelings toward him?

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2. What are some suggestions in the “How it Happened” section that death, although still
undesirable, can be a healing experience?

3. How did Liesel acquire her first book? What is it?

4. Describe Himmel Street. Why does Death find the street’s name ironic?

5. How do Hans and Rosa Hubermann differ from each other in both appearance and personality?

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6. What activities bring Hans Hubermann and Liesel closer together?

7. What is the BDM, and what does Liesel do during the meetings?

8. Who lives at 8 Grande Strasse, and why does Rosa Hubermann dislike them? What is
Rosa’s relationship with her other neighbor, Frau Holtzapfel?

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Part One: “The Kiss” – “The Heavyweight Champion of the School-Yard”

Vocabulary

abducted – taken away secretly and forcefully; kidnapped


absurdity – ridiculousness
adrenaline – the hormone produced when a person is stressed, angered, or afraid
amplified – made greater
audacious – outgoing and fearless
collaborated – worked together
commentate – to comment on an event while it is taking place
conceded – admitted to be true
coping – dealing with a difficult situation
culminating – concluding in or reaching the highest point
cynicism – a distrust of others; a belief that people are motivated only by self-interest
demolition – destruction
deprivation – lacking something essential
disclosed – made known
elated – extremely happy
excruciating – unbearably painful
flanked – having people or things positioned on the left and right side
fluency – the ability to speak, read, or write accurately
goaded – prodded; pressured
gravitating – being attracted or drawn to
implicit – implied
infamy – fame for some bad behavior; a bad reputation
lacerated – ripped or torn
lodged – housed; fixed in something
luminary – an important person who inspires others
materialized – took on a physical form
melancholic – depressed
misogynistic – tending to hate women
morbidity – having disturbing and gruesome characteristics
nefarious – wicked; evil
obliterated – destroyed
prelude – an introduction
prodded – nagged into doing something
regimen – a routine
relinquished – gave up a hold on or claim to something
rendition – version; interpretation
scythe – a long pole with a curved blade at the end used for cutting grain
seethe – to become overwhelmed with anger
serenity – a calm and peaceful state
steadfast – fixed; unwavering
strewn – thrown about randomly

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touted – publicized or promoted


vicinity – the area near a certain place
whittled – shaped by carving away pieces

1. Who is Rudy Steiner, and how is he characterized? How do he and Liesel meet?

2. How does Liesel and Rudy’s friendship evolve throughout these chapters?

3. Discuss Tommy Müller’s role in these chapters.

4. Who is Frau Diller, and what is her “one golden rule”?

5. Explain the allusion present in the narrator’s interjectory title “The road of yellow stars”
in the chapter “The Kiss.” How does the reader then know what the section will be about,
and how does this relate to the setting for the novel?

6. Examine the significance in these chapters of the following motifs: colors, dreams, and books.

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7. Identify several examples of Death’s use of humor or sarcasm in this section.

8. Explain the significance of Mr. Steiner’s comment to Rudy, “I know, son—but you’ve got
beautiful blond hair and big, safe blue eyes. You should be happy with that; is that clear?”
What is the most significant word in his father’s comment?

9. Discuss the depiction of Hans Hubermann’s character in this section, noting the new de-
tails the reader learns about him.

10. In “The Smell of Friendship,” Death states that, “In the times ahead, the story would arrive
at 33 Himmel Street in the early house of the morning…It would carry a suitcase, a book,
and two questions.” What two literary devices is the author using here?

11. Give several examples of similes and metaphors in this section.

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Part Two

Vocabulary

adhering – following specific laws or principles


admonish – to warn against or reprimand
animosity – dislike or hostility
apprehend – to capture or arrest
attributed – believed to be the result of
bewildered – confused
caricatures – drawings of people or things that exaggerate prominent features
commemorate – to celebrate or honor the memory of
consummate – to make official or perfect
contemplating – thinking
culpability – blame; fault
decrepit – old and worn
dejected – depressed
deterrent – something that discourages a person or thing from doing something
dilapidated – worn out
discrepancy – inconsistency
disperse – to send in several directions; to scatter
dowsed – covered in liquid
escalate – to increase quickly
explicit – stated directly and clearly
fixated – obsessed with
flippant – not serious; disrespectful
foreboding – a feeling that something bad will happen
fruition – a completion
gait – a manner of walking or moving
grotesque – bizarre; misshapen; disturbing
hindsight – an understanding of past events
incinerate – to set on fire
infernal – annoying or irritating
jocular – tending to joke; humorous
machinations – plans
marginally – to a small or limited extent
melee – a disorderly mass of individuals, usually involved in a fight
ominous – foretelling a negative event
onslaught – an attack
overzealous – obsessed with or over-exited about something
partial –preferring one thing over another
partisans – members or supporters of a political party
podium – a small platform on which a person stands while giving a speech
proverbial – relating to a familiar saying
ransacked – damaged

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Reichstags – governmental buildings in Germany


resolve – the will or courage to do something
succumbing – surrendering; giving in to
suppressed – held in or prevented from surfacing
synagogues – Jewish places of worship
transgressor – a person who breaks a law or commits a wrong
unfurling – unraveling; unrolling; becoming spread out
vigilant – watchful; alert

1. Analyze the narrator’s use of flashback and foreshadowing in Part Two. How is his use of
these devices here similar to those in the two earlier sections?

2. Explain the significance of the chapter title, “The Joy of Cigarettes.”

3. At the start of the chapter “The Joy of Cigarettes,” what is Liesel’s emotional state?

4. What pivotal event occurs just after Liesel and Papa finish The Grave Digger’s Handbook,
and how does it reflect their relationship?

5. In “The Town Walker,” what is Mama’s plan? How effective is her plan, and how does Liesel
feel about it?

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6. Based on a school assignment, what does Liesel decide she wants to do that surprises Papa?
What is the final result?

7. Though Mama is generally harsh and critical, identify several details that show her concern
and affection for Liesel.

8. Explain the significance of Liesel’s “yellow tear” at the end of “Dead Letters.”

9. What preparations are being made for Hitler’s birthday celebration? Why is Rosa concerned
during these preparations?

10. Describe the Hubermann children. In particular, what does the reader learn about Papa’s
difficult relationship with his son? What is to become of Hans Junior?

11. Explore the motif of courage and cowardice as illustrated by Papa and Hans Junior.

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12. Explain the narrator’s use of personification in describing the burning books in “100 Per-
cent Pure German Sweat.” What contradiction in humanity does Death note?

13. Describe the process leading to Liesel’s revelation about her family.

14. What is Papa’s reaction when Liesel says that she hates Hitler? How does Liesel respond?

15. According to Death, what four things does a good thief require? Does Liesel possess these
attributes?

16. Based on the small detail given, who might the person be who sees Liesel steal the book?

17. How does this section of the novel address the theme of the power of words both to give
and take away power and knowledge?

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Part Three

Vocabulary

aptitude – the natural ability to do something


benign – harmless
bittersweet – having both pleasant and depressing characteristics
brandished – waved like a sword
brigade – a smaller unit of an army
compulsive – done impulsively and without much planning
confided – trusted with a secret
conglomerate – a group of different things put together in group
congregations – groups of people gathered together
contempt – disgust; scorn
contradictory – going against what is expected
cowered – crouched in fear
despondently – hopelessly and in low spirits
diabolical – evil
distort – to alter or deform
ecstasy – extreme happiness
elapsed – passed by
envision – to imagine
euphoric – giving extreme pleasure
evade – to avoid
havoc – destruction; chaos
immaculate – perfectly neat and free of flaws
incongruous – out of place
irrefutable – unable to be disproved
lolled – drooped down or hung loosely
magnitude – a great size or degree
manhandle – to handle violently
obligatory – required
oblivious – unaware
paranoia – a worry or fear of being harmed
prattled – babbled
proffer – to offer or give
rebuke – to criticize
repertoire – a collection of things, usually songs or speeches, that a person can perform
at a moment’s notice
reproach – disapproval
salvaged – saved from loss or destruction
secretion – a substance that is released from a cell or gland
sedated – calm; dull
seizure – the act of taking something by force
skeptical – hesitant to believe in an idea

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surreal – having a mixture of realistic and dreamlike elements


transcends – goes beyond the present situation
veered – rapidly changed direction
volatile – unpredictable; changeable

1. What is Papa’s reaction when he discovers that Liesel has stolen another book? What does
his reaction say about his character?

2. What is Hans’s motivation for going to the Nazi Party office to buy a copy of Mein Kampf?

3. Based on the title of the chapter, “The Mayor’s Wife,” what might the reader assume the
chapter is about and why?

4. Contrast Liesel’s expectations regarding the mayor’s wife as compared with the reality of
what actually happens.

5. Explain the narrator’s repeated reference to Ilsa Hermann’s smile, which “gave the appear-
ance…of a bruise.”

6. What information does the reader learn about the man in “Enter the Struggler”?

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7. What occurs when Liesel and Rudy meets Arthur Berg and the other boys?

8. Identify the additional details about Max presented in “The Struggler, Continued.”

9. Note two examples of irony present in the chapter, “The Struggler, Continued.”

10. Explain the significance of Arthur Berg’s statement, “We might be criminals, but we’re not
totally immoral” and how his comment relates to Liesel as well.

11. Explain the significance, and irony, in the last chapter title in Part Three.

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Part Four: “The Accordionist” – “The Wrath of Rosa”

Vocabulary

affront – to cause offense


ambled – walked at a slow, lazy pace
antagonized – made angry
apex – the highest point
appalled – disturbed; disgusted
apprehension – anxiety or fear about a future event
archetypal – stereotypical
assertion – a declaration
astonished – surprised; shocked
awry – unusual; out of the ordinary
capitulate – surrendered
compensation – payment
competent – having the ability to do something well
convulsed – moved in spasms
dubious – doubtful; uncertain
emigrating – leaving one’s home to settle somewhere else
emulate – to imitate or recreate
endorsed – publically and officially supported
fathom – to understand
gallantry – polite and courageous behavior
Gestapo – the German secret police in Nazi Germany
grudging – reluctant
hemispheric – relating to one half of Earth
inconspicuously – without attracting attention
ludicrous – ridiculous
makeshift – serving as a temporary substitute for the real thing
malignant – causing harm
morose – gloom and hostile
obscenity – something (usually a word) that is offensive
ostracism – the process by which someone is excluded from a group
persecution – mistreatment because of one’s identity or beliefs
quelled – put an end to, usually by force
rangy – tall and long-limbed
reserve – a place where some commodity is stored
restrained – held back; kept under control
revoke – to take back; cancel
serial – divided into parts or a series
sporadically – occasionally and at random
tirade – a long, angry speech; an outburst
tranquil – calm
trodden – stepped on

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trounced – defeated
tutorage – teaching
vitality – health

1. What two questions does Max ask Hans Hubermann, and why are they asked?

2. Describe Death’s account of how Hans Hubermann avoided him. How does Hans’s attitude
towards war save him?

3. What does Death mean when he says, “I’ve seen so many young men over the years who
think they’re running at other young men? They are not. They’re running at me.”?

4. Analyze the nature of Hans Hubermann and Erik Vandenburg’s friendship. How does this
friendship save Hans?

5. Explain how this section addresses the theme that the power of words can save people
and unite them.

6. Recount Hans Hubermann’s thought process regarding his attitude towards Hitler’s rise to
power.

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7. What are Hans Hubermann’s “two mistakes” with regards to his standing with the Nazi
Party, and what are the two things that ultimately save him from those mistakes?

8. Explain the significance of the chapter title “A Good Girl.”

9. What is the function of the chapter “A Short History of the Jewish Fist Fighter”?

10. What is it that Death admires about Max Vandenburg?

11. Point out the irony of the following quotation: “In those days, they said the Jews preferred
to simply stand and take things. Take the abuse quietly and then work their way back to
the top. Obviously, every Jew is not the same.”

12. Explain Max’s internal conflict once Walter rescues him and how it ties to a major theme
in the novel.

13. List several parallels between Max and Liesel.

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Part Four: “Liesel’s Lecture” – “Pages from the Basement”

Vocabulary

abrasive – grinding; harsh


abstinence – self-restraint
affliction – suffering
allocated – distributed
beleaguered – having great troubles
bemused – confused, puzzled
caustic – bitter and ill-tempered
clouted – struck, as if by a punch
compliance – the act of following an order or command
descent – a downward movement
deteriorating – worsening; wearing away
dormant – inactive
emaciated – thin because of illness or starvation
enthused – excited
err – to be incorrect or mistaken
excerpts – short pieces of a larger work
excrement – feces
fabricated – made-up to deceive others
fragmented – broken into pieces
friction – rubbing against
gleaming – shining
gravity – seriousness
hobbled – walked uneasily or with pain
immutable – unchanging
imperative – crucial; of great importance
inaugural – indicating the beginning of something
iridescent – showing different colors when seen from different angles
jabbering – chattering; talking rapidly
mortifying – humiliating; embarrassing
opaque – not able to be seen through
optimistic – hopeful
perplexed – confused
pivotal – essential; important
placidity – calmness
plagued – troubled
prudently – carefully and with great precaution
residence – a place where someone lives
rouse – to wake
ruinous – disastrous
sadistic – enjoying the pain of others
self-deprecation – insulting oneself

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solemnity – formal and serious


steeped – soaked
tentatively – hesitantly
tepid – lukewarm
transpired – passed; took place
trepidation – anxiety about something that will happen
twinge – a sharp, sudden pain
ventured – set out to do something risky
venue – a place where something takes place

1. Note Death’s attitude towards the Hubermanns as reflected in the opening paragraphs of
this section. What techniques does the author use to convey this attitude?

2. What is the significance of the diction used to reference Max in “Liesel’s Lecture.”

3. Discuss Hans’s tactics in getting Liesel to understand the importance of their secret.

4. What is the significance of the last two lines in the chapter “Liesel’s Lecture”?

5. What role does the motif of light and dark play, both literally and figuratively, in these chapters?

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6. Describe what Liesel notes about Max in “The Sleeper.”

7. Compare Max’s character in “The Swapping of Nightmares” with what the reader learned
about him earlier in the novel. What has changed him so significantly?

8. How does Rosa Hubermann exemplify the theme of ordinary people displaying great courage?

9. Describe the progression of Liesel and Max’s friendship as seen in this section. How is the
theme that words can unite and save people highlighted by their friendship?

10. How is Max able to help Liesel in a way that Hans cannot? What is Hans’s reaction to this
reality?

11. Explain the implication of Hans’s comment, “If we gamble on a Jew…I would prefer to
gamble on a live one.”

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12. Describe the content of “The Standover Man.” What serves as Max’s source of inspiration
for the drawings? What is Liesel’s reaction to his gift?

13. What is the symbolic significance of Max using Mein Kampf to make his present for Liesel?

14. Identify several examples of personification in this section.

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Part Five: “The Floating Book (Part I)” – “The Gamblers (A Seven-Sided Die)”

Vocabulary

barren – empty
bellowed – roared
commenced – began
debilitate – to weaken
decimated – destroyed
depleted – used up the supply of
despicable – wretched; loathsome
diplomatically – negotiating in a polite, sensitive way
dissipated – scattered in many directions
dividend – an amount of money paid regularly
dour – gloomy and depressing
envisaged – imagined
gratuitous – uncalled for; unreasonable; unnecessary
hoisting – lifting; raising up
hypocrite – a two-faced person
malice – evil or bad intent
methodically – done according to a procedure
neutralized – counteracted and made harmless
pallid – pale
periphery – on the outer sides or limits
plethora – an overabundance
proximity – nearness
rebounding – bouncing off of something
refrained – avoided doing something
respective – belonging to a particular person or group
riffling – going through quickly and casually
seeping – leaking through small holes
sustained – bore the weight of
toiled – worked
transfixed – paralyzed with fear or awe
unconscionable – dishonest; unreasonable
unnerving – causing one to lose confidence
vociferously – noisily and wildly
withering – decaying; shriveling

1. What two events are depicted in “The Floating Book”?

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2. Explain the significance of the title of the chapter “The Gamblers (A Seven-Sided Die)”
and note the structure of the chapter in reference to the title.

3. In the sub-section entitled “The Haircut,” what is particularly significant as it relates to


Nazis and WWII?

4. What predictable routines have developed in Liesel’s life in the sub-section “The Newspaper”?

5. Discuss Liesel’s first description of the weather. Why does Max know that “only a child
could have given him a weather report like that”?

6. What are the two “new projects” Max embarks upon and why?

7. Describe the details of Max’s boxing fantasy. Note how his fantasy ties to the theme of the
power of words to incite action.

8. How does Liesel use damaging words in “The Gamblers”? Describe the reactions of Ilsa,
Rosa, Hans, and Liesel herself to these words.

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Part Five: “Rudy’s Youth” – “The Floating Book (Part II)”

Vocabulary

altercation – a conflict
blatant – obvious; done without shame
branded – labeled
buoyantly – cheerfully
charisma – personal charm
cohorts – partners
concerted – planned and done with great effort
conferred – discussed
desecrated – destroyed or treated with disrespect
deviants – people who violate social norms
diminutive – small in size
disconcerting – unsettling
disheveled – untidy; disordered
ejaculated – said suddenly and quickly
epitome – a perfect example of something
forlornly – miserably; depressingly
fumigated – exposed to smoke or chemical fumes
fundamental – basic; underlying
idyllic – simple and peaceful
incentive – a motivation to do something
infuriate – to make angry
leered – glared; stared angrily
loping – bounding; striding
malnourished – not receiving proper nutrition
microcosm – a smaller version of the larger world
mire – mud
nostalgia – a sentimental desire to return to the past
perused – read or examined carefully
potency – power; effectiveness
predominantly – primarily
qualms – issues or feelings of unease
recounted – gave a detailed account of something
repugnant – offensive; distasteful
rhetoric – speech or writing that is persuasive
sodden – soaked
subsequently – coming after, usually as a result of

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1. What comparisons might the reader draw between Rudy Steiner and Hans Hubermann?

2. What is the function of the chapter “Rudy’s Youth”? Briefly describe Rudy’s “triple-tiered
problem.”

3. Note the multiple times Rudy Steiner’s desire to kiss Liesel is mentioned in this section.

4. In what ways do Viktor Chemmel and Franz Deutscher represent the qualities for which
Adolf Hitler stands?

5. Cite an example of foreshadowing in “The Losers.”

6. Explain the meaning of Max’s sketches. What double meaning might there be in Liesel’s
comment, “You scared me, Max,” at the end of that chapter?

7. Describe the internal conflict Liesel has over stealing the book back from the mayor’s
house in “The Whistler and the Shoes.” Why is this chapter particularly significant to the
novel as a whole?

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8. Briefly describe Rudy’s “Three Acts of Stupidity.”

9. Discuss the prevalence of the stealing motif in this section of the novel.

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Part Six

Vocabulary

abridged – shortened
adamant – unwilling to change one’s mind
alluded – referenced; called attention to
antithesis – the opposite
contorted – bent out of normal shape
copiously – in great abundance
disgruntled – annoyed
fatigued – tired
generated – created
incessantly – without stopping
incredulous – shocked or disbelieving
indulging – taking pleasure in something
irreparable – unable to be repaired
paradox – a statement that seems to contradict itself, but actually expresses a truth
premonition – a vision of the future
repercussions – consequences
resolute – firm and determined
resurgence – a renewal or revival
scouring – searching
serpentined – moved like a snake
sustained – prolonged
unflappable – calm in a crisis situation
unwavering – steady or unrelenting
waned – gradually lessened

1. How does Death describe his own appearance?

2. Examine the paragraph in “Death’s Diary: 1942” beginning with “They say that war is death’s
best friend…” What literary devices is Death using in this paragraph? How does this para-
graph reiterate Death’s sentiments about his job?

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3. What might the snowman Max and the Hubermanns build symbolize?

4. Based on the title of the chapter, “Fresh Air, an Old Nightmare, and What to Do with a
Jewish Corpse,” what might the reader assume the chapter is about? What do these ideas
actually reference?

5. What is the significance of the book Liesel steals in this chapter?

6. What does Death suggest about Ilsa Herrmann’s open window?

7. Why are the Hubermanns so concerned about the prospect of Max dying?

8. How is Liesel’s recurring dream of her brother altered? How does she attempt to interpret
this change?

9. Describe the scene when Rosa comes to Liesel’s school. Why is Rosa behaving this way?

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10. How is the metaphor of “the boss” reiterated at the end of the chapter? What events does
Death foreshadow?

11. Who is “The Visitor”? How does Liesel help to defuse the situation in this chapter? What
is Max’s reaction to this situation?

12. Discuss Death’s description of death in the gas chambers in “Death’s Diary: The Parisians.”

13. What is one of the primary functions of both the first and last chapters of Part Six? Why
are the two chapter titles significant?

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Part Seven: “Champagne and Accordions” – “The Sound of Sirens”

Vocabulary

absolution – forgiveness
acquittal – found innocent from the charge of a crime
bulbous – bulblike in shape
compiling – collecting information from different sources
disorientation – the state of being confused or having one’s perception impaired
formidable – inspiring fear or respect
gargantuan – enormous
grapple – to wrestle
insignia – a badge or symbol
intuition – instinctual ability to understand the truth
nonplussed – confused
opus – a masterpiece
procession – an orderly line of people
recoiling – drawing back in fear or disgust
seduce – to attract and corrupt
stoic – emotionless

1. How are the motifs of painting and colors represented in “Champagne and Accordions”?
And how do these motif serve to characterize Hans Hubermann?

2. Identify one small detail Hans reveals about when he first knew Rosa.

3. Note the three Duden Dictionary definitions in this section and each word’s relevance within
the context in which it occurs.

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4. Describe the events in the chapter “The Trilogy.” What is peculiar about Rudy’s behavior?
What does Liesel speculate as to the reasons for his behavior?

5. Note Death’s “point for later reference” with regards to Rudy.

6. Describe the content and tone of Ilsa Hermann’s note to Liesel. In what ways might this
note change the reader’s opinion about Ilsa?

7. Where do the Hubermanns go for the first air raid? Describe the action and mood in this scene.

8. What important distinction does Death make between the Germans in the air raid shelters
and the Jews? What is his attitude towards each as a result?

9. What does Max admit to doing while the Hubermanns and Liesel were at the Fiedlers’ house?
What might surprise the reader about his admission? What is Papa’s reaction?

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Part Seven: “The Sky Stealer” – “The Idiot and the Coat Men”

Vocabulary

akin – like; similar to


clamored – made a loud uproar
conceived – thought up
consolations – comforting words given after a loss or disappointment
derision – ridicule
din – a loud, unpleasant, and disordered noise
flak – anti-aircraft fire
futile – hopeless
hapless – unfortunate
literally – according to the exact meaning of the words
nonchalance – indifference
plastered – laid flat against something
shuffling – walking by dragging one’s feet
subdue – to calm
temerity – boldness
wayward – movement that is irregular and unable to be predicted

1. How does the chapter “The Sky Stealer” emphasize the theme of the power of words?

2. Explain the significance of Death’s comment: “A voice played the notes inside her. This,
it said, is your accordion.”

3. Given the information known about Frau Holtzapfel’s character, how might her curious
offer to Rosa and Liesel be explained?

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4. Describe the tone created in “The Long Walk to Dachau.”

5. Explain the role reversal between Hans and Liesel in this section. What advice did Hans
give to Liesel earlier that he is now himself ignoring?

6. Why does Death insist that the Duden Dictionary “was completely and utterly mistaken,
especially with its related words”?

7. Identify the greatest source of tension in “The Idiot and the Coat Men.” What is the result?

8. What are the five Duden Dictionary definitions in this section and each word’s relevance
within the context in which it occurs?

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Part Eight

Vocabulary

abject – awful; miserable


agitators – people who inspire rebellions
arid – lacking excitement or interest; dry
compulsory – required
dais – a raised platform
deliriously – in an absent-minded state of mind
haunches – back legs
marooned – stranded and isolated
miscreants – people who break rules or laws
opportune – ideal; well-chosen
perilous – dangerous
preoccupation – a concern or worry
undeterred – undiscouraged

1. Explain the chronology in plot for the first two chapters of Part Eight. Why are they ordered
in this way?

2. Explain the significance of Death’s comment, “Again, the human child. So much cannier”
in “Dominoes and Darkness.”

3. Identify the symbolism present in “Dominoes and Darkness” and explain the meaning.

4. What does Death say might have happened if Rudy had intervened and let the coat men
take him?

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5. Cite two examples from Part Eight that indicate a change in Liesel’s feelings towards Rudy.

6. To what is Death alluding when he says, “For others it was poverty and guilt when the war
was over, when six million discoveries were made throughout Europe.”

7. What news does Hans Hubermann initially receive in “Punishment”? Why does the news
appear to be good only “on the surface”?

8. What does the reader learn about the Steiners at the end of “Punishment”?

9. Why does Papa go to the basement when he returns from his night out drinking with Alex
Steiner? What is the result?

10. What three things does Hans request of Liesel before he leaves for the army? What are the
effects of his departure on Rosa and Liesel?

11. What comparison can be drawn between Rudy and Max?

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12. Describe the “painted image” Liesel witnesses in “The Promise Keeper’s Wife” and explain
how the image serves to further characterize Rosa Hubermann.

13. Explain Hans’s job in the army. How might the reader then draw a parallel between Hans
and Death? And why does Hans struggle so much to write a letter to Liesel and Rosa?

14. In “The Bread Eaters,” why does Liesel feel conflicted about potentially seeing Max in the
“parade of Jews”?

15. Describe the contents of Max’s “Hidden Sketchbook,” particularly the “Word Shaker” section.

16. How does the metaphor presented in The Word Shaker help to explain Hitler’s rise to power?

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Part Nine

Vocabulary

exert – to apply physical or mental effort


inconsolable – unable to be comforted
indignant – angry
jostled – tossed or bumped about in a rough manner
semblance – the outward appearance

1. What clues in the first full paragraph of “The Next Temptation” alert the reader as to Liesel’s
location? What additional information does the reader learn about Ilsa Hermann from the
first page of this chapter?

2. On this particular visit, which book does Liesel decide to “steal”?

3. What important realization does Liesel make about the library in this chapter? How does
this knowledge make her feel and why?

4. Note two humorous references to the Nazi’s influence in the Hermann household.

5. What is the function of the chapter, “The Cardplayer”? What theme does the chapter emphasize?

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6. What new information does Rosa learn about her son, and what is her reaction?

7. Briefly relate the details of Robert Holtzapfel’s death. What comment does Death make
about “taking” Robert?

8. Explain the significance of the following quotation: “Three languages interwove. The
Russian, the bullets, the German.”

9. What does the closing paragraph of “The Snows of Stalingrad” indicate about Liesel?

10. Explain the significance of the chapter title “The Ageless Brother.”

11. Who are the members of the “cast” of characters who appear to Liesel at night in her room,
and what is each person doing?

12. How does the quotation Liesel remembers from The Last Human Stranger parallel her own
feelings?

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13. Describe the details of “The Accident.”

14. Why does Sergeant Schipper intend to tell his superiors that Hans is “not fit for the LSE”?
What does this say about his character?

15. Describe the contents of “Rudy’s Toolbox.” Which item is odd? How does Rudy later
explain the inclusion of this item to Liesel?

16. Why does Rudy tell Liesel, “You’re not a thief at all”? What important distinction does he
make about the nature of stealing? And what does he realize about himself?

17. How do various people try to coax Frau Holtzapfel out of her home for the air raid? What
ultimately persuades her to leave?

18. What comparison can be drawn between Michael Holtzapfel and Max in terms of their
attitude towards survival?

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19. How does the teddy bear function as a symbol in “One Toolbox, One Bleeder, One Bear”?

20. Describe the narrator’s attitude towards both humans and himself as presented at the end
of this chapter.

21. What is the foreshadowing at the end of “Homecoming”?

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Part Ten

Vocabulary

alleviated – made free of pain or suffering; lessened


anarchist – a person who believes in a society without a government
bereaved – suffered from the loss of a loved one
cantered – galloped
detriment – a state of being harmed or disadvantaged
entwined – twisted together
insolent – disrespectful
irretrievable – unable to be fixed
lustrous – glowing; bright
unkempt – disordered; untidy
vantage – a viewpoint

1. What is the primary function of the first chapter in Part Ten?

2. Explain the significance of the chapter title “The Ninety-Eighth Day.”

3. How and why does Michael Holtzapfel kill himself?

4. Characterize Hans Hubermann’s actions in this chapter.

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5. What information does the reader learn about the progress of the war and Death’s attitude
toward Hitler in “The War Maker”?

6. What pivotal piece of hopeful information does the reader learn at the end of this chapter?

7. Describe the details of the scene on Munich Street in “Way of the Words.”

8. Explain the significance of the quotation regarding Liesel and Max: “She had seen him
afraid, but never like this.”

9. Why does Liesel choose to quote words from Max’s own writings? What is Max’s reaction
to those words?

10. Why does Liesel seem to welcome the soldier’s whip?

11. How does the chapter “Confessions” serve as a turning point in Liesel and Rudy’s relationship?

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12. Explain Liesel’s conflicted feelings about words as seen in “Ilsa Hermann’s Little Black Book.”

13. Describe the content of Liesel’s letter to Ilsa Hermann. What is Ilsa’s reaction to the letter,
and how does it further characterize her?

14. What do Death’s descriptions and feelings as he takes each soul on Himmel Street reveal
about him?

15. When the men from the LSE pull Liesel out of the basement, what is her immediate reac-
tion? How does the reader know that Liesel is in shock?

16. At what moment does Liesel know that the body the men are carrying is Rudy’s? What
“amazes” Death about Liesel in this scene?

17. How does Death come to have possession of Liesel’s black book?

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Epilogue

Vocabulary

demise – death; destruction


liberation – a state of being set free

1. What does the reader learn about the course of Liesel’s life in “Death and Liesel”? What
does Death say about her soul when he comes to take her?

2. Explain the details of the flashback with regards to the Hermann’s role in “Wood in the
Afternoon.” What can the reader assume about Liesel’s future?

3. What is Alex Steiner’s main regret?

4. What does Liesel tell Alex Steiner when he comes to find her? Why does she feel the need
to tell him this and what is his reaction?

5. Explain the significance of the last sentence of “Wood in the Afternoon.”

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6. What happens in October of 1945? Why is this event particularly miraculous?

7. When Death goes to collect Liesel’s soul, what is he able to do that he has been wanting
to do for a long time? What is Liesel’s reaction?

8. Explain the significance of Liesel’s question and Death’s answer in this final scene.

46 STUDY GUIDE
Use Bloom’s Taxonomy to Help Students
Independently Evaluate Literature

EW! Levels of Understanding


N Instead of teaching your students how to answer questions about
a particular text, help them develop the skills to critically evalu-
ate literature without relying on outside guidance.
Using Bloom’s learning domains, Levels of Understanding
breaks down complex questions into smaller parts and outlines
the steps necessary for students to develop a sound evaluation
of a text. Students will begin with the most basic and funda-
mental skill­—comprehension; they will then move on to reader
response, analysis, and synthesis, and gradually build to the
highest skill, evaluation.
Not only will these guides help you prepare your students
for standardized tests like the AP* Language and Literature exam, the SAT,**
and the ACT,*** but they will also give students the self-assurance to develop and
articulate a personal assessment of the text — a skill that will be advantageous in
college and beyond.
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X307235.................Macbeth ...............................................................................$29.99
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Teacher’s Gu
ide
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Macbeth
derstanding: X308189.................To Kill a Mockingbird .........................................................$29.99
Levels of Un
Act IV X308902.................Catcher in the Rye, The .....................................................$29.99
Macbeth
act iV

Each section of each Levels of Understanding guide contains the


cy?
each prophe
What does five types of questions that are representative of Bloom’s learning
cbeth sees?
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Levels of Un
evaluation.
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uses to test wh Reader Response Questions allow students to respond to text by
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5. What uses himself m, nothing wou blishes for Ma
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th’s enemy.
the significance of various techniques and literary or theatrical devic-
is truly Macbe
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force your opi


nion of Macbe
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change or rein
cduff’s family wers that ma
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s the sla ughter of Ma ge of ans ent stil l has for Macbe able.
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her son sym innocent vict lack of love,
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rash and tho is a traitor. Ma woman. She son *AP, Pre-AP and the Advanced Placement Program are registered trademarks of the College Board, which was not
eve his father k, defenseless s away as her
is right to beli king. eotype of a wea and then run
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who wou y arg ue that Lady has no rea son to flee ert tha t the fact that
s ma ger that she ents may ass **SAT is a registered trademark of the College Board, which was not involved in the production of and does not
Other student to the messen l. These stud .
band, insists and stereotypica ters themselves
about her hus is precocious in the charac endorse, these products.
The son, too, sympathetic
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l evo ke sym pathy, but the ***ACT is a registered trademark of ACT, Inc., which does not sponsor or endorse this product.
wil
who are killed
k House, Inc.
2010, Prestwic
’s Guide • © Copyright
beth • Teacher
erstanding: Mac
Levels of Und
32

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