In The Book Thief, how does Liesel steal? Who helps her? What role do they play in stealing the books?

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It is Death, our narrator, who names Liesel the “book thief.” In reality, Liesel does not steal very much at all. However, she does “take” books, and there are people who “help” her do so, as your question suggests.

Liesel takes her first book during the interment of her brother...

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It is Death, our narrator, who names Liesel the “book thief.” In reality, Liesel does not steal very much at all. However, she does “take” books, and there are people who “help” her do so, as your question suggests.

Liesel takes her first book during the interment of her brother at the gravesite. One of the men digging the graves drops a book called The Gravedigger’s Handbook. Liesel is enthralled, even though she cannot yet read, and takes the book. You could say the worker at the gravesite unwittingly helps Liesel here by leaving the book behind. There is a taboo on having books and reading books in Nazi Germany during World War II, so many books are being burned.

Even though the next two books are received as Christmas gifts, the final sentence of the previous paragraph brings us to the second book Liesel “steals.” On April 20th, 1940, after one of the famous Nazi book-burning ceremonies, Liesel sees a book almost untouched by the flames. This book is called The Shoulder Shrug. By this time, Hans is already teaching Liesel to read.

Finally, there is the mayor’s wife. She is the main character who helps Liesel “steal” books. Liesel is enthralled by the mayor’s wife’s library of books. Liesel will take one and return it later for another (which, in my opinion, is borrowing and not stealing). It is not long before the mayor’s wife catches on, grows fond of Liesel, and helps Liesel by placing special books on the windowsill for Liesel to take. A few books Liesel “steals” or borrows from the mayor’s wife are as follows: The Whistler, The Dream Carrier, Song in the Dark, and The Complete Dulden Dictionary and Thesaurus.

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