The story is set in Germany beginning in 1939 and is narrated by Death (sounds strange, but it works). A 10-year old girl, Liesel Meminger, is put into foster care with Hans and Rosa Hubermann because her father is a communist and her mother can no longer care for her. Liesel's younger brother dies on the way to the Hubermann's home. Liesel picks up (steals) a book at her brother's funeral that was left behind by one of the grave diggers; the book is The Grave Digger's Handbook. Even though Liesel is 10 years old, she doesn't know how to read. When Hans discovers the book that Liesel has been hiding, he helps her learn to read. Liesel's best friend is her next door neighbor, Rudy Steiner. Liesel's life changes again when the Hubermann's hide Max, a Jewish man in his 20's, in their basement. My favorite quote in the book is this (Alex Steiner is Rudy's father):
* * * THE CONTRADICTORY POLITICS * * *
OF ALEX STEINER
Point One: He was a member of the Nazi party, but he did not
hate the Jews, or anyone else for that matter.
Point Two: Secretly, though, he couldn't help feeling a
percentage of relief (or worse -- gladness!) when
Jewish shop owners were put out of business --
propaganda informed him that it was only a matter of
time before a plague of Jewish tailors showed up
and stole his customers.
Point Three: But did that mean they should be driven
Point Four: His family. Surely, he had to do whatever he
could to support them. If that meant being in the party,
it meant being in the party.
Point Five: Somewhere, far down, there was an itch in his
heart, but he made it a point not to scratch it. He was afraid of
what might come leaking out.
I believe there were many people who felt similarly in Nazi Germany; not evil, but afraid to stand up for what was right. I rate this book 5 out of 5.