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Liesel is the main character in the novel The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. She is a young German girl who, at the beginning of the story, is traveling by train to Munich with her mother and brother. On the way, her brother dies on the train, and while they are burying his body, Liesel steals her first book. This starts Liesel's love for and obsession with books, which continues throughout the rest of the story.

Liesel moves in with her foster parents in Molching, and Hans, her foster father, realizes that Liesel cannot read. He begins to teach her the alphabet, and Liesel and Hans develop a very special bond. They eventually finish the book that Liesel stole on the train ride.

The story is set during World War II in Nazi Germany. The second book she steals is during a book-burning ceremony in town. She is exposed to more books when she begins delivering laundry for a wealthy woman in town who owns a vast library. The woman, Ilsa Herman, allows Liesel to read her books. Liesel becomes quite the reader, which ultimately comes in handy.

When Molching is being bombed, the people must find shelter in neighbors' basements. Everyone is very tense and afraid, but Liesel begins to read aloud in the shelter, which calms everyone's nerves. In this case, the book doesn't literally protect her or the people from any bombs, but the power of her books and her words provide calmness and soothe people's anxiety.

Liesel's family take in a Jewish man named Max to help him hide from the Nazis. Liesel and Max have a very special friendship, and they spend time in the basement together reading and practicing spelling words. Max ultimately leaves, but he leaves a book for Liesel called "The Word Shaker," which is the story of Max and Liesel's friendship. It promises that someday they will be reunited.

Later in the story, Ilsa Herman leaves Liesel a blank notebook so that she can write her own book. Her love of books and words protects her at the end of the story, because she is in the basement writing in her notebook when her town gets bombed. In this raid, her beloved foster parents and her best friend, Rudy, pass away. Liesel is pulled from the ruins and only survives because she happened to be in the basement writing when the bombing happened. In this way, her love of books literally protects her and saves her life.

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