All posts by Devon D

Week 8

Role 5: The Word Master

“bereaved” (p. 506): be deprived of a loved one through a profound absence, esp. due to the loved one’s death.
I chose this word because I did not know what it meant, but I felt it was important to the atmosphere of the scene.

“immaculate” (p. 513) (esp. of a person or their clothes) perfectly clean, neat, or tidy.

I chose this word because I felt it contrasted ironically with the dirt and the neglect Max had suffered at the hands of German soldiers.

“Bahnhof” (p. 516): train station
I chose this word because it was in German and I did not know what it meant.

“lustrous” (p. 523):  having luster; shining.
 chose this word because I liked the way it was spelled.

“detriment” (p. 531): the state of being harmed or damaged.

I chose this word because I had never heard it used in that bleak of a context.

-Devon D.

Week 7

Role 4: The Summarizer

In these pages, Hans gets very drunk before he goes off to the army. Liesel and Rudy go off “to kill the Fuhrer,” even though they only end up taking a sad walk. Later, we get a glimpse of Hans’ life in the army.

Liesel decides to give bread to the Jews like her father had (and she also wants to look for Max). She gets caught, but is only kicked. Later, Rosa gives her Max’s old sketchbook, with a fairy-tale style story inside titled The Word Shaker, which is about Liesel’s power to use words for good in a time of evil.

Liesel goes to steal more books from the mayor’s wife, and finds that she had left cookies out for her. When Ilsa meets her in the library, she tells Liesel that the library is actually hers, not her husband’s, which makes Liesel happy.

Meanwhile, Hans gets into an argument with another soldier that ends with him giving up his seat in the car. The car crashes, and the man in his seat is killed. Hans is discharged with a broken leg, which thrills Liesel, but leaves Rudy a little bitter.

Later, Rudy plans to steal from many wealthy houses, but is unable to do so. The air raid alarms blare, but Frau Holtzaphel refuses to leave her house. She eventually joins them in the shelter, and when the all-clear signal is given, a plane crashes and they stand vigil at the death of the pilot.

-Devon D

Week 6

Role 3: Passage Person

“As is often the case with humans, when I read about them in the book thief’s words, I pitied them, though not as much as I felt for the ones I scooped up from various camps in that time. The Germans in basements were pitiable, surely, but at least they had a chance. The basement was not a washroom. They were not sent there for a shower. For those people, life was still achievable.” (376)

I chose this passage because it puts the time period and the lives of our protagonists into perspective; though we do feel greatly for the main characters, it is very easy to forget that they are not the ones suffering the most. We are able to see glimpses of what Jewish people were going through throughout the story, but it is still important to remember that the Jewish people were the real victims of real suffering, no matter how bleak the German people’s lives seemed at the time.

“Again, Himmel Street was a trail of people, and again, Papa left his accordion. Rosa reminded him to take it, but he refused. ‘I didn’t take it last time,’ he explained, ‘and we lived.’ War clearly blurred the distinction between logic and superstition.” (380)

I chose this passage because I feel that it very concisely and accurately documents a glimpse of being human in a desperate situation. I find myself falling into superstitions like this even in my daily life, and I imagine that would be greatly exacerbated by the dangerous times. I feel like this shows how far people, even logical people like Hans, will reach in order to find some stability, no matter how illogical the grounds for that stability are.

“In a tall apartment just around the corner on Munich Street, an old lady with a foreboding voice deciphered for everyone the exact source of the commotion. Up high, in the window, her face appeared like a white flag with moist eyes and an open mouth. Her voice was like suicide, landin with a clunk at Liesel’s feet.” (390)

I chose this passage because I really admire Zusak’s ability to construct an atmosphere and the image of a character with just a few simple words. I think the similes in this passage really get the message across, and show his use of language to perfectly accent the point he wants to get across.

For my fellow groupmates, what do you think of the first passage?

-Devon D.

Week 5

Role 2: The Connector

A connection I made was how their treatment of Max’s illness was very telling of the time, and of Max’s situation. Although they all loved him, each in their own ways, their attempt to cure his sickness and the possibility of his death were both incredible liabilities to the Hubermanns that they also had to take into account. That shows how not only was it impossible to supply any sort of medicine if you were in any way considered illegitimate by the society, but even in death, Jewish people were treated as subhuman. It shows just how willing the people who harbored them were to suffer the consequences, and how much of a danger even the slightest mishap could be.

I felt that it also showed well how people can handle the prospect of the death of a loved one in a variety of different ways. Liesel never gave up hope, and instead tried to bring him back in every way she could – some would call it denial, others could call it persistence in doing what she felt was right. Meanwhile, Hans and Rosa were more practical and considered every part of the situation, not just their own emotions. I feel that this characterization connects back to readers’ own experiences with death and illness, and allows people to see themselves in the characters’ actions and emotions.

-Devon D.

Week 4

Role 1: Discussion Leader

1. How did the narrator telling you that Rudy was going to die affect your perception of the story and the events you read about? Why do you think the author chose to reveal that, and what purpose do you think it served to the story?

2. What did Max’s mental boxing match with Hitler tell you about his own self-perception, and his perception of the world?

3. At the end of the last chapter, Liesel sees Max’s pictures and they scare her. What do you think she is thinking when she sees them, and how do you think she is going to reconcile her thoughts with the propaganda she is being fed by the BDM?

-Devon D.

Role Five: The Word Master

1. schmunzel (p. 43): smile
I chose this word because it was used twice in the section, and I felt it added to the German setting.

2. burlap (p. 151): coarse canvas woven from jute, hemp, or a similar fiber, used esp. for sacking.
I chose this because it is the material from which Arthur Berg’s bag is made, and it seemed relevant to the setting.

3. schimpherei (pg. 161): scolding
I chose this because it was yet another German word used that I did not know the meaning of.

4. rheumatism (pg. 178): any disease marked by inflammation and pain in the joints, muscles, or fibrous tissue, esp. rheumatoid arthritis.
I chose this because it was important in that it was the disease the commander had that led to Hans Hubermann being saved, indirectly, from dying in the war.

innocuously (pg. 182: not harmful or offensive.
I chose this because it was the way in which the man on the street greeted Hans while he was painting over the graffiti left on the Jewish man’s door. It was being used ironically, given the context versus the definition.

-Devon D.

Role Four: The Summarizer

In this section of the book, we learn more about all of the characters, especially through their relations to Liesel. The atmosphere is also growing tenser, what with the impending dread (felt by Liesel; for most everyone else, it is joy and patriotism) of WWII.

The section starts with Liesel’s failed reading exam, which leads to her not being moved to her proper grade. It does, however, lead to an incredibly violent fight with a boy who was bullying her, which earns her the reputation of “the heavyweight of the schoolyard.”

Liesel and Hans soon finished the Gravedigger’s Handbook, and Liesel’s knowledge of reading and writing improved. A class assignment required that she write a letter to someone she knows, and she decides to write to her birth mother. This leads to the first terrible discovery of the book – her mother does not write back, and will never write back, she soon learns. As the growing nationalism takes an even stronger hold on Germany, Liesel learns that her mother, and father too, were in opposition to Hitler, branded as Communists, and now their whereabouts are a mystery.

Later, Hans Hubermann has a fight with his Nazi son, a short while before a book burning in honor of Hitler’s birthday. Liesel steals one of the books that miraculously escaped the flames, and after doing so, realizes that she had been seen in the act by the mayor’s wife. She becomes increasingly wary of the mayor’s wife during her delivery runs, until one day the mayor’s wife invites her into her home, and shows Liesel her immense library. Liesel is awestruck, and barely remembers to say thank you.

The section closes with a change in scenery – now, the story takes place on a train, with a Jewish boy named Max. We learn that Hans Hubermann himself is in charge of the boy’s safe arrival to wherever his destination may be.

-Devon D.

Week 1

Role Three: The Passage Person

“She would wake up swimming in her bed, screaming, and drowning in the flood of sheets. On the other side of the room, the bed that was meant for her brother floated boatlike in the darkness. Slowly, with the arrival of consciousness, it sank, seemingly into the floor.” (p. 36)

The figurative language in this passage, and the drowning imagery all work to bring about the feeling of grief and of loss, and of the swirling confusion that she can’t seem to escape. The author expertly captures Liesel’s subconscious  terror at being in a new place, and at having lost a precious family member.

“Frau Diller administered this feeling, dishing it out as the only free item from her premises. She lived for her shop and her shop lived for the Third Reich. Even when rationing started later in the year, she was known to sell hard-to-get items under the counter and donate the money to the Nazi Party. On the wall behind her usual sitting position was a framed photo of the Fuhrer. […]
‘Say heil when you go in there,’ [Rudy] warned [Liesel] stiffly. ‘Unless you want to walk a little farther.'” (p. 50)

This passage was interesting to me because it shows the views of Hitler’s regime that the Germans of 1933 commonly held. It also raises questions as to how these views will be treated in the book; whether they will be mere background details to add to the atmosphere, or if they will be actively condemned by the narrative for their extremely dangerous effects.

In 1933, 90 percent of the Germans showed unflinching support for Adolf Hitler. That leaves 10 percent who didnt.’ Hans Hubermann belonged to that 10 percent. There was a reason for that.” (p. 63)

This interjection was intriguing to me because it is very effective foreshadowing; we as the audience want to know what Hans Hubermann’s reason is, and the story will reveal it soon.

For my groupmates, what do you think about the passage about Frau Diller?

-Devon D.