Death introduces himself as the narrator of the book. He lists the main elements of the story to come, and reveals that he has seen the main character, the book thief, three times. The first time he saw her was on a train where he had come to collect the soul of a small boy.
The book thief watched him take the boy with tears frozen to her face. The next time Death saw the book thief was years later, when a pilot had crashed his plane.
The third time he saw the book thief, a German town had been bombed. The book thief was sitting on a pile of rubble, holding a book. Death followed the book thief for a while, and when she dropped her book, he picked it up.
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The book thief is nine-year-old Liesel Meminger. She and her younger brother, Werner, are traveling by train with their mother towards Munich, where they will live with a foster family.
As the book thief dreams of Adolph Hitler, Werner dies suddenly. One of the gravediggers drops a book, and Liesel, who has been digging in the snow, picks it up. Liesel and her mother continue on to Munich, then to a suburb called Molching.
Himmel translates as heaven, though the town is neither hellish nor heavenly.
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Liesel meets her new foster parents, Hans and Rosa Hubermann. Liesel complies. From the beginning of her time with the Hubermanns, Liesel is plagued by nightmares of her dead brother.
Often she wakes up screaming, and Papa comforts her.
The Book Thief
During the day, Liesel attends school, where she is forced to study with the younger children because she is behind in her education. In February, Liesel turns ten, and is given a damaged doll by the Hubermanns.
Mama begins taking Liesel along with her when she collects washing from the neighbors in Molching, and soon Liesel is making the deliveries herself. Liesel begins meeting her neighbors on Himmel Street, including her next door neighbor Rudy Steiner.
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Rudy is obsessed with the African-American track star Jesse Owens, who won four gold medals in the Berlin Olympics. Though Rudy and Liesel initially argue over a soccer game, they soon become best friends.
Smitten with Liesel, Rudy suggests they race, and if he wins, he gets a kiss. They both fall in the mud as they run though and Liesel refuses to kiss him.
One night, following a demonstration by members of the Nazi Party, Liesel has another nightmare about her brother and wets the bed.
When Papa comes to change the sheets, he finds the book Liesel stole from the gravedigger who buried her brother. The lessons progress, and Papa begins taking Liesel with him during the day to study by the river. Overcome with sadness about her failed reading attempt, the death of her brother, and everything that has happened in the past few months, Liesel breaks down, and Rudy comforts her.
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With Death as the unconventional, omniscient narrator of The Book Thief , the novel immediately establishes that the story will mix elements of fantasy with historical fact. Rather than being stereotypically grim or creepy, Death presents himself as sensitive to color and light, and rather regretful about his unfortunate line of work. He has feelings for the souls he collects, and the humans left behind.
Accordingly, the reader may even at this early point understand more of what is happening than Liesel does. Artboard Created with Sketch.
Themes Motifs Symbols Key Facts. Summary Prologue and Part One. Page 1 Page 2.
Prologue and Part One
Summary Death introduces himself as the narrator of the book. Analysis With Death as the unconventional, omniscient narrator of The Book Thief , the novel immediately establishes that the story will mix elements of fantasy with historical fact.
Questions Can You Answer Correctly? The Book Thief: Popular pages. Take a Study Break.