Why does Liesel steal books in The Book Thief?

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Liesel first discovers a book called The Gravedigger's Handbook when her brother dies, and she holds onto the book until her foster father, Hans Hubermann, teaches her how to read it. Hans and Liesel practice reading and writing together by painting letters on the basement walls in Hans's house. As Liesel and Hans develop into better readers, they develop confidence in themselves as independent thinkers who can resist the Nazi regime. Hans and his wife decide to provide refuge to a Jewish prizefighter named Max Vanderburg, who also has a love of words, something he shares with Liesel. As time goes on, Liesel breaks into the Mayor's library to steal books. Her actions are a means of educating herself and, in the process, resisting the Nazi regime, which burns the books it does not agree with. In Liesel's life, literacy and reading function as a means of resistance against the brutality and inhumanity of the Nazis. 

mkcapen1 | Student

In the beginning of the book Leisel and her mother have gone to the cemetery.  Liesal's mother had carried her brother's limp body there.  The grave diggers dig a burial site for her brother.   While there with her mother Liesel sees something.  She picks it up.  It is a book.  The title is "The Grave Digger's Handbook."

Liesal hangs onto the book.  Her mother sends her to live with a foster family in another town on Himmel Street.  Liesel rubs the book in her hands.  The book is all she has left to remind her of her brother. 


1-The last time she saw her brother.

2-The last time she saw her mother.

Liesel is unable to read or write.  Yet, she wants to be able to read.  Hans Huberman her foster father begins to teach her how to read.  Books are in short supply so he teaches her to read the book she had stolen.  Liesel then steals books from book burnings by the Nazis and from the mayor's house.  Liesel has a thirst for knowledge and the books provide her with both knowledge and escape from the sadness of her mother's abandonment.

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The Book Thief

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