Liesel and Hans were practicing reading in the basement before Max arrived. Reading was very important to Liesel. It was her escape from the war. She made a dictionary out of the walls. After Max arrived, Liesel associated him with reading too, and the two of them formed a relationship around words.
When Max first arrives, Liesel is fascinated by him. She does not quite know what to do, because she knows that his presence puts them in danger. She feels bad for him because he has been relegated to the basement by Germany’s ridiculous policies against Jews.
Liesel is also fascinated because in addition to showing up unexpectedly, Max showed up with a book. The book was Mein Kampf, Hitler’s book explaining his “struggle.” Liesel tries to ask Max about it.
He looked up from the pages, forming his fingers into a fist and then flattening them back out. Sweeping away the anger, he smiled at her. He lifted the feathery fringe and dumped it toward his eyes. “It’s the best book ever.” Looking at Papa, then back at the girl. “It saved my life.” (Ch. 31)
The book was Max’s cover, and that is why he says that it saved his life. He does not mean that the actual book is a good book. Its contents are terrible and he hates Hitler. It is another example of the irony of books. Hitler certainly would not have expected his book to be used by a Jew to escape capture.
Max uses it to make something better, The Standover Man. He paints over the pages. This is a very meaningful gift for Liesel. It is personal and celebrates their friendship.
The scrawled words of practice stood magnificently on the wall by the stairs, jagged and childlike and sweet. They looked on as both the hidden Jew and the girl slept, hand to shoulder. (Ch. 32)
Liesel realizes that Max is not so much frightened as appreciative of the family and what they do for him, including Liesel. He loves words as much as she does. When he asks Liesel to describe the world outside, she gets creative and he really admires the creativity. Their friendship is built around the joy of words.
“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 ….” (Ch. 37)
These weather reports make Max feel like he is part of the real world. They are gifts of words passed from Liesel to Max. These and the little nonsense gifts that Liesel brings with them make Max feel less alone.