Sandbox1- The Book Thief Story Analysis

The Novel Project is coming!!!  That means that Journals and CWs will be replaced with Sandbox and chapters of my novel.  🙂  To practice outlining a novel, we each outlined a well-known work.  I chose The Book Thief because it is one of my most favoritest books ever.  (If you have not read it, I am throwing a copy at you right now.)

Title: The Book Thief

Author: Markus Zusak

Genre: Historical fiction

Audience: Young adult




List the characters in the story and give a thorough description of each one (3-4 sentences). Consider physical, emotional, relational, social status, and occupational characteristics.

Death—Contrary to the popular belief, it isn’t sadistic, violent, or cruel.  Actually, it has a caring heart.  It doesn’t enjoy its job, which is tiring and never ending.  In general, Death tries to ignore the humans, but it can’t help becoming interested in Liesel Meminger.  So interested that it narrates her story.

Liesel Meminger— This blonde haired, brown-eyed German girl is the central character of the story.  When she’s nine years old, her mother decides she can’t care for her anymore and hands her over to the foster system.  Her little brother dies on the way.  Despite her tragic history, she manages to start a new life in Molching, Germany with her foster parents, the Hubermans.  She develops a passion for words, which leads her to steal books.

Rudy Steiner—With his lemon colored hair and gangly blue eyes, Rudy is the perfect Aryan, but he doesn’t really care.  In fact, he once painted himself black to look like the Olympian runner Jesse Owens.  He’s Liesel’s next door neighbor, and they become the best of friends.  Although he insults her all the time, he’s desperately in love with Liesel and would do anything for her.

Hans Huberman—He paints for a living and plays the accordion.  Kind, honorable, and gentle in every way, Hans is a wonderful foster father for Liesel.  He’ll wake up in the middle of every night to comfort her from her nightmares, and although he himself is barely literate, he does everything he can to teach her to read.

Rosa Huberman—She’s a squat woman who bears a resemblance to a wardrobe.  She loves Liesel just as much as Hans, just that she has a strange way of showing it.  Actually, yelling cuss words seems to be her love language.  Despite her harshness, Rosa Huberman is definitely someone you want around.  She’s strong and can make it out of any crisis.

Max Vandenburg—This swampy-eyed, feather-haired Jewish fist fighter has no one to turn to but the Hubermans.  Hans once promised his father that he would do anything to help him, and now his life depends on that promise.  Thankfully, the Hubermans are willing to risk their lives to take in the sickly, desperate Jew.  He moves into their basement and slowly but surely forms a strong bond with Liesel.

Ilsa Herman—A frail, shivering woman who is the wife of the mayor of Molching.  Although she usually doesn’t speak to anyone, she grows attached to Liesel.  Eventually, she becomes an important part of the girl’s life.


Point of View

Write a sentence explaining who tells the story.

The story is told in past tense first person, from the perspective of Death.



Write a sentence stating the time and place. If nothing is mentioned, give your best estimate.

It takes place in Molching, Germany during World War II.


Plot Outline

Write a paragraph synopsis of the story (6-8 sentences). Include a summary of the characters, setting, conflict, and theme. This should read like a blurb on the back of a book.

It’s 1939 in Nazi Germany.  Next to her brother’s graveside, Liesel sees something she can’t resist: a forgotten copy of The Gravesdigger’s Handbook.  It’s the first book she steals, but it isn’t the last.  As Liesel starts her new life with her foster family, the Hubermans, she develops a love of books and a friendship with her neighbor, Rudy Steiner.  But the times are difficult, especially when the Hubermans hide a Jew in their basement.  Soon enough, Liesel sees all the suffering war has to offer.  She experiences the best and the worst of humanity, the power of words, and heartache beyond measure.


What type of conflict do you see in the story? Give specific examples. Distinguish between major and minor conflicts.

man vs. man

There are several man vs. man conflicts, perhaps the most major being between Liesel and Ilsa.  Through this conflict, Liesel learns about redeeming friendships and harmful words.

man vs. environment

This is probably the most major conflict, as all of the main characters struggle against the environment in some way.  Nazi Germany was a place full of peril, poverty, and prejudice, making it a difficult place to live for anyone, especially if that person was Jewish (like Max) or harbored a secret hatred of Hitler (like Liesel).

man vs. himself

(minor) Max often faces conflict with himself.  He doesn’t want to leave his family to look for the Hubermans, but at least that way one of them lives.  He doesn’t want to be a burden for the Hubermans, but what else can he do?

man vs. animal

This conflict doesn’t really occur in the book, as there are no animal characters.



State the main theme(s) or message of the story in universal terms that apply to everyone, regardless of age, race, or gender (1 complete sentence). Look for at least two themes.

Words have power for both terrible and great things.  Words brought Hitler to power, but words also can be used to heal.

“I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right.”

Similarly, humans have capacity for both great good and great evil.

“Proof again of the contradictory human being.  So much good, so much evil.  Just add water.”

Literary Devices

List at least three different examples of literary devices used in the story.

Anthropomorphism- The story is told from the perspective of Death, so it is given human-like qualities and emotions.  You could argue that this is personification, but I think it falls more closely under the category of anthropomorphism.

Example: “By the way—I like this human idea of the grim reaper.  I like the scythe.  It amuses me.”

Authorial intrusion- This is one of the most distinct features of the book.  Death often speaks to the reader and many times interrupts the story to give an observation or definition.

Example: “A DEFINITION NOT FOUND IN THE DICTIONARY— Not leaving: an act of trust and love, often deciphered by children.”

Simile—There are more of these than you can blink your eyes at, but here’s a really good one.

“Trust me, though, the words were on their way, and when they arrived, Liesel would hold them in her hands like the clouds, and she would wring them out like the rain.”


Write a paragraph of your opinion of this story and why. Rate it as 1-5 stars, 5 being the best.

SEVEN OUT OF FIVE STARS This is the best standalone book I have ever read and the book that has brought me closest to tears.  From the very first page, I fell in love with the poignant, lyrical writing and its endearing, unforgettable characters.  The Book Thief is moving, profound, and life changing.  Needless to say, I love it and cannot recommend it enough.

(Warning: If you have ever cried in a book, you will sob hysterically in this one.)


5 thoughts on “Sandbox1- The Book Thief Story Analysis

  1. Ah, I have this book. Haven’t read it yet. =P I’ve also never cried while reading a book, so I doubt that will happen with this (and I’ve read some pretty depressing books), but it sounds interesting. 🙂

    ~Michael Hollingworth
    Disce Ferenda Pati – Learn to endure what must be borne


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