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Book Thief

The Mayor's Book Club selection for Spring 2016 is "The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak.

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Want to start a book group of your own? There's lots of sites that will offer tips and general instructions for starting, and running, a book group. We've listed just a few below.

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Major Character List

  • Death: Narrator.
  • Liesel Meminger: Main character and book thief.
  • Max Vandenburg: Jewish man who hides from the Nazis in Hans' basement.
  • Hans Hubermann: Liesel's foster parent; offers safety to both Leisel and Max.
  • Rosa Hubermann: Hans' wife and Liesel’s other caretaker.
  • Rudy Steiner: Liesel’s best friend.
  • Ilsa Hermann: Mayor’s wife and book lover.

Discussion Questions

  1. The Book Thief's major themes include: abandonment and loss, the power of words to save and destroy lives, guilt, love and trust. Explore how the novel’s plot and characters reveal these themes.
  2. What role does the accordion play in Hans’ life? What connection does Liesel make with the accordion?
  3. Liesel feels abandoned by her mother and by her brother's death. How does she equate love with abandonment? Who else abandons Liesel?
  4. Liesel is bullied by her teacher for not being able to read. Rudy is bullied by the Hitler Youth leader. How do they stand up to bullies? How does the bullying portrayed compare to bullying in society today?
  5. Why  are words and stories so valuable to the characters of the Book Thief? What is the symbolism of the tree in Max’s story “The Word Shaker”? What is the significance of Max’s story “The Standover Man”?
  6. How does the author use foreshadowing to pull the reader into the story?
  7. The Grave Digger's Handbook is the first book Liesel steals. Why did she take the book? What is significant about the titles of the books she steals? What does the act of book thievery teach Liesel about life and death?
  8. Explain Rudy's reaction when he discovers that Liesel is a book thief. How does stealing books from the mayor's house lead to a friendship with the mayor's wife? Explain how Liesel's own attempt to write a book saves her life.
  9. Guilt is another recurring theme in the novel. Hans' life was spared in France during World War I, and Erik Vandenburg's life was taken. Explain why Hans feels guilty about Erik's death and how Hans channels his guilt into helping others. Explain Max Vandenburg's thought, "Living was living. The price was guilt and shame." Why does he feel guilt and shame? 
  10. Liesel must keep a family secret. Can you imagine how the pressure of keeping a family secret might feel? Discuss the reasons for or against maintaining a secret. How would you decide?
  11. How has Leisel’s relationship with Hans, Rudy, Max, Rosa, and the Mayor’s wife changed over time? How does each member of the Hubermann household demonstrate courage throughout the novel? Who are the conformists and who are the rebels in the story? How do characters show the range of cruelty and kindness in human nature? 
  12. Death says that Liesel was a girl "with a mountain to climb." What is her mountain? Who are her climbing partners? What is her greatest obstacle? At what point does she reach the summit of her mountain? Describe her descent. What does she discover at the foot of her mountain?
  13. How does the humanization of Death contribute to the overall story? Is Death a reliable or effective narrator? 

Books about life in the Nazi era...

Book Thievery & Destruction

All Things Accordion