- What was the author’s purpose behind choosing Death as a narrator? Is this a trustworthy narrator? How does Death see things that a human narrator might not?
- In the opening of the book when Liesel steals her first book, The Gravedigger’s Handbook, this event can be thought of as the first of many turning points for her. What are some of the others? Talk about each major character and what their turning points are, as well as turning points for the community as a whole.
- Knowing that Liesel is called a “thief,” how does the book complicate our ideas of justice and judgment? Which characters do you view as just/unjust or brave/cowardly, and why? Which events or details most color your perceptions of these characters?
- What choices do characters make about groups they will belong to? What groups do they belong to without choice? What are the consequences?
- Discuss Liesel’s friendship with Rudy. Does she love him in the way he loves her, or is it a child’s love? Do you think he reminds her of her brother?
- Zusak’s books often portray characters with a tendency to fight—including Max and Liesel. Is a child who fights more forgivable that an adult who fights? Why?
- From Hans to Liesel to the mayor’s wife, discuss how some of the characters in The Book Thief deal with their past. Discuss themes of memory and punishment.
- Is Hans Hubermann a courageous man? How does he show courage, or lack of courage?
- Name some acts of resistance in the book, from large to small. What does the author intend with his inclusion of these acts?
- Who has power in this book? How does Liesel gain power, and how does Max? Toward the end of the novel Liesel remarks to herself that words give power. How so?
- Discuss the meaning of Max painting over Mein Kampf. What is he able to express by doing this and by drawing over it, that he cannot convey in person?
Thanks to Facing History and Ourselves for its valuable input on these questions.
Content last updated: October 31, 2012