Prologue and Part 1 Summary

In the Prologue, the narrator of The Book Thief introduces himself as Death and reminds the reader that everyone is going to die someday; he urges the reader to not be afraid. Death says his job is hard and that he is saved only by having distractions—he cannot stand to look at the survivors because he pities them. He introduces the story to come as one that will be about a girl, words, an accordionist, fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist fighter, and thievery. Death meets the book thief three times. The first time is on a train where he has gone to carry away the soul of the book thief’s little brother. Years later, Death meets her again when he comes to escort a pilot who has died. The last time, the book thief stands on the rubble of her home that has been destroyed by bombs, and Death wants to comfort her. Death is often reminded of the book thief, and he has kept her story to retell.

In Part One, Death outlines the parameters of the book thief’s story. It is January 1939, and Liesel Meminger is riding on a train with her mother and little brother, Werner, when he falls ill and dies. The family exits the train and buries Werner in a nameless town in the presence of a priest and two grave diggers. Liesel and her mother then board another train heading for Munich, where Liesel will meet her foster parents—her mother can no longer care for her. At the station, Liesel is delivered to the authorities and taken to a small town called Molching, where the Hubermanns reside on Himmel Street. Her foster parents are Rosa, a brash woman who often swears, and Hans, a tall, gentle man. They take Liesel into their home unaware that she has already become a thief—Liesel has taken The Gravedigger’s Handbook from the scene of Werner’s burial.

Rosa often calls Liesel a “saumensch” (filthy pig), and she seeks comfort from Hans, now her Papa, who sits with her at night to keep away her nightmares. Papa often plays his...

(The entire section is 579 words.)