At which holiday does Liesel finish reading "The Grave Digger's Handbook" in The Book Thief?

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Liesel finishes reading The Grave Digger’s Handbook just before Christmas.

Although The Grave Digger’s Handbook is not typical reading material for children, beggars can’t be choosers.   Papa uses the book to teach Liesel to read, despite the macabre material.  It is their special bonding time, when they cuddle up close together and unlock the magic of the written word.

She remembered the date well, as it was exactly a week before Christmas. (Part 2)

After they finish the book, Liesel and Papa are closer, and Liesel even confides in him about her brother Wener’s death.   The Grave Digger’s Handbook is a way for her to mourn.   She took the book from the grave diggers that buried her brother.  By ending the book, and learning to read it, Liesel is able to feel close to him again.  When she finishes the book, it is as if she has lost him once more.

On one of the rooftops, she could see a small boy, sitting, looking at the sky. “His name was Werner,” she mentioned. The words trotted out, involuntarily. (Part 2)

Papa appreciates this.  This is why he provides her with two Christmas gifts, the books Faust the Dog and The Lighthouse.  The books become their connection to each other, and Liesel’s connection to the world.  She begins to feel comfortable with her new identity as the book thief, and as a reader.

The timing is also significant.  Wener died in January, so when Liesel finishes the book it is almost the anniversary of his death.  Even if she was not thinking about her dead brother, the connection would weigh on her.

Zusak, Markus (2007-12-18). The Book Thief (Kindle Location 985). Random House, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

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