Mark Reads ‘The Book Thief’: Chapter 12

In the twelfth chapter of The Book Thief, Hans becomes more upset at the turn of world events, and Liesel stands up to the students who bully her at school. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Book Thief.

I get the feeling that by framing this book under the dark clouds of World War II, this story is going to have a lot of emotional parallels to what’s going on during this historical period. Since we started part one, things have been relatively calm for Liesel and her knew family. I suppose it’s mostly due to Zusak needing some sort of expository period to introduce characters, the narrator, and plant the seeds for later plots and themes that will be developed. This chapter, however, feels like the start of something more, a subtle impending doom about to envelop the narrative. Fall rolls around, and that means the start of rationing and the start of World War II, which obviously wasn’t called that at the time.

This uniquely affects Hans Hubermann in a way that I still don’t quite understand. After taking the day’s paper home and having it sweat inside his shirt, he finds that it left a full imprint on the inside of his shirt.

“What does it say?” Liesel asked him. She was looking back and forth, from the black outlines on his skin to the paper.

“’Hitler takes Poland,’” he answered, and Hans Hubermann slumped into a chair. “Deutchsland über Alles,” he whispered, and his voice was not remotely patriotic.

The face was there again—his accordion face.

So why the face? I would understand it more if this was the first time it was introduced. But why did he make this face while playing the accordion to Liesel at Amper? What is he worried or upset about?

We’re not given any answer. Hmmm. I don’t get it.

The second part of chapter twelve deals specifically with Liesel’s problems at school. I don’t need to tell the stories again, but I was bullied extensively during elementary, middle, and high school, ruthlessly so, and there were many days I wish I had channeled my rage in a way that Liesel does here. I’ve always been a pacifist; not even necessarily by some moral high ground, either but because I’ve never known how to fight. I’ve still never gotten in a fight in my whole life. (At 27, I feel like that is a feat of some sort. I fight with words.) I don’t think I’d ever go out of my way to condone violence of this sort, but there was something immensely satisfying in reading about Liesel’s attack on Ludwig Schmeikl.

Finally moved up to her proper grade, Liesel’s anxiety about school is tested yet again during a progress test in the beginning of November. This specific test involves reading in front of the entire class and despite that Liesel has been doing better with her papa, it’s still not an easy concept for her to face.

A halo surrounded the grim reaper nun, Sister Maria. (By the way—I like this human idea of the grim reaper. I like the scythe. It amuses me.)

Clearly, Death looks different. How does Death look by the way? Don’t answer that

Throughout the test, Liesel sat with a mixture of hot anticipation and excruciating fear. She wanted desperately to measure herself, to find out once and for all how her learning was advancing. Was she up to it? Could she even come close to Rudy and the rest of them?

Has Liesel even read anything aside from The Grave Digger’s Handbook, by the way? If not, this might be a disaster. Well…ok, it does end up being a bit of disaster anyway, but not as I expected. First of all, Sister Maria flat out skips Liesel, announcing that the progress reports in reading are done.

A voice practically appeared on the other side of the room. Attached to it was a lemon-haired boy whose bony knees knocked in his pants under the desk. He stretched his hand up and said, “Sister Maria, I think you forgot Liesel.

Sister Maria.

Was not impressed.

OH SNAP. Who is this boy, by the way? TATTLE TALE. Oh, wait, that would probably have been me at that time. OK NEVERMIND, NO JUDGING ALLOWED.

She plonked her folder on the table in front of her and inspected Rudy with sighing disapproval.

OH SHIT. Rudy?!?!?! Ok, back to judging. Actually, that’s kind of hilarious to me. STILL. Rudy. What are you even doing.

When Sister Maria tells the class that Liesel will read for her later, in private, Liesel doesn’t seem to agree with the concept too much, making me believe that Rudy specifically trolled her, knowing she’d do just this. So she states aloud that she can do her test right now. And she stands up. And she walks to the front of the room. And she flips the book to a random page. And she imagined herself “reading the entire page in faultless, fluency-filled triumph.


So, it doesn’t quite go as she planned it in her head. Whilst imagining this victorious conclusion to her test, Liesel stands in silence in front of her own class, the words blurring together and confusion taking hold inside of her. So she does what she can and what she knows:

She reads The Grave Digger’s Handbook. From memory. God I love Liesel. It gets her in trouble and she’s the subject of a lot of laughing from the other students, but it’s a wonderful moment to me. I love that she goes to the first thing that gives her comfort: the book her father is helping her read.

Unfortunately, the taunting doesn’t just stop at laughing. Ludwig Schmeikl starts it off, teasing her, asking her to read a word, then calls her an idiot. The momentous force of childhood bullying grows quickly at this point, reaching nineteen comments during her break from class. Nineteen! So when Ludwig comes back around, Liesel breaks. And her fury is actually a bit frightening:

Well, as you might imagine, Ludwig Schmeikl certainly buckled, and on the way down, he was punched in the ear. When he landed, he was set upon. When he was set upon, he was slapped and clawed and obliterated by a girl who was utterly consumed with rage. His skin was so warm and soft. Her knuckles and fingernails were so frighteningly tough, despite their smallness. “You Saukerl.” Her voice, too, was able to scratch him. “You Arschloch. Can you spell Arschloch for me?”

HOLY SHIT. Again, this would never work for me. That’s for a couple reasons. First of all, I never stood up to my bullies. Ever. Well, I suppose I tried, but whatever I said would be thrown back at me and used to further pick on me. Hell, maybe I was just really bad at standing up for myself. As I said before, I’m also completely awful at fighting, or at least I imagine myself to be. I think if I got in a fight I would probably run away. Yeah! Because I’m fast! That would work. I AM AWESOME.

Oh, how the clouds stumbled in and assembled stupidly in the sky.

Great obese clouds.

Dark and plump.

Bumping into each other. Apologizing. Moving on and finding room.

Death is a poet in his off time, isn’t he? I forget that he’s narrating every so often, and then a passage like this comes up, which I love, and then I remember that someone is telling us this story. I suppose it’s kind of weird, but I still like the way this is written.

Anyway, back to Liesel being a bad ass. As she continues to wail on Ludwig, she spots Tommy Müller staring at her and begins to beat him up, too, for no reason other than the fact that he was smiling. Then I didn’t feel too great about what Liesel was doing. She was going out of control. But for her, it feels like she was asserting herself to all of these students. She even proclaims to all of them, “I am not stupid,” and no one protests. The thing is, we’ve never seen her like this. The only parallel I could draw or think of was when she first met the Hubermanns and Liesel refused to get out of the car or take a bath. That’s more stubbornness and shock than anything else, though, and here we see her so full of rage that it’s actually pretty scary.

Even Sister Maria is unusually shocked that Liesel is behind the double beating as well, giving her a brutal spanking in response.

At the end of the school day, Liesel walked home with Rudy and the other Steiner children. Nearing Himmel Street, in a hurry of thoughts, a culmination of misery swept over her—the failed recital of The Grave Digger’s Handbook, the demolition of her family, her nightmares, the humiliation of the day—and she crouched in the gutter and wept.

Ugh, please do not cry and be overwhelmed, YOU ARE MAKING ME SAD. Rudy, thankfully, silently waits with Liesel as the rain returns.

“Why did he have to die?” she asked, but still, Rudy did nothing; he said nothing.

When finally she finished and stood herself up, he put his arm around her, best-buddy style, and they walked on. There was no request for a kiss. Nothing like that. You can love Rudy for that, if you like.


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.

GORGEOUS SENTENCE. And here, at the end of part one, we get a glimpse of the future, though it’s a tiny one. Reading and writing is going to play a larger part in Liesel’s life.


About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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89 Responses to Mark Reads ‘The Book Thief’: Chapter 12

  1. anninyn says:

    I love you Liesel and Rudy. I love you forever!

    I was bullied quite viciously too, and I told myself that if I ignored it it would go away. It didn't. One day (and I'm not proud of this) it went too far. I snapped. The sheer fury was astonishing. I punched a door they locked behind me until they had to open it or I;d break it, then I screamed at them and punched them until they were crying.

    I'm not saying this was a good way to deal with it, but I will point out no-one ever bothered me again. This was also after 7 years of bullying and my godmother had just died and they told me if they were a member of my family they'd kill themselves, so I'm not entirely certain I was sane at this point.

  2. monkeybutter says:

    Oh god, I love Rudy so much. I mean, I couldn't deal with him if I were his parent or teacher, but I love him for (fictionally) existing. You just know he's going to cause trouble. He and Liesel are a great pair.

    I think I was used to Death's narration by the end of Part I, too. It feels right, and it makes things like

    Sister Maria.

    Was Not Impressed.

    possible. I love those pregnant pauses. Good work Zusak/Death.

    • FlameRaven says:

      I love that line. You can practically hear the 'OH SNAP!" right after it.

    • ldwy says:

      I love that line. Because it's just how people talk! I can just see Death deadpanning it, and cocking his head for emphasis.

    • Joanie says:

      Haha, I thought Mark was saying it at first 'til I saw the italicized font. XD

    • BradSmith5 says:

      Ha,haha, I still think the narration feels contrived. I mean, there are seventeen longer-than-normal spaces setting apart phrases and paragraphs in this chapter. And Zusak has punctuated many mundane things previously, so when a climax arrives and things actually NEED to be emphasized, the 'zillions of line breaks' technique just ends up looking overused.

      I still managed to enjoy it, though. :p

      • monkeybutter says:

        Oh, you. 😉

        I like experimental prose (even if The Book Thief isn't all that out there), but I understand it's not for everyone. I have friends who HATE modern and post-modern authors, and it really is just a matter of taste. But I think it works amazingly here for a couple of reasons:

        1) Death is an entity and the short, unattached phrases and paragraphs make sense for something that doesn't understand or view the world in a way that humans do. First person omniscient and the non-linear narration are perfect for him. And;

        2) The way it's constructed forces you to read it as though it's being read aloud to you. It's like Death is sitting there and telling the story, and who can resist adding dramatic pauses for comic effect, or making asides about things that turn up later? Maybe it's because I'm a terrible storyteller, but I add commentary and get ahead of myself all of the time. Death isn't just observing and reporting; Death is engaging us. I love it.

        Besides, if Zusak broke out the bold, centered text and cute asides only at the climax, wouldn't you be annoyed that he was allowing the form to make his point instead of the content? I get your point, though, and it's okay to be put off by Zusak's writing choices.

        • BradSmith5 says:

          Aw, you are so nice to explain all of that; I hope you are as wonderful to your friends. ^_^

          Anyway, I was thinking about what you said about this story being read aloud, so I went and listened to a bit of the audio version on YouTube. Now, I don't know if it's just the guy doing the reading, but I think the narrative is far more enjoyable in spoken form. Well, after the accordion music stops, that is. 😉

          • monkeybutter says:

            Oh god, my friends know I'm pedantic, but if I ever went on about ~narrative form~ they would never forgive me. It's best to stick to plot and favorite lines when talking about books in real life. I am oddly defensive about this on the internet! Sorry if it was too much!

            I'm going to have to find the audio version if there's actually accordion music. Thank you for bringing that into my life, haha.

            • BradSmith5 says:

              Explaining your points in a polite, well-structured manner!? Monkeybutter––you've gone too far this time! 😉

              Ha,ha,ha, I feel the same way when I try to pull this stuff on my friends. They just go "What? Isn't that a kid's book? Who cares?" :'(

              • monkeybutter says:

                Thankfully, most of my friends liked Harry Potter before I did, and there's no shame in talking about YA books. Sad for you. 🙁

  3. “You Arschloch. Can you spell Arschloch for me?” Hee! That line makes me laugh every time. Oh, Liesel.

    I love that lemon-haired Rudy called out Sister Maria for skipping Liesel. I didn't see it as tattling. I think he recognized how excited Liesel was and had faith in her.

    • ldwy says:

      Same here, he saw it as unfair that she wasn't getting a chance, and so he spoke up. And she does want to try. It just kind of goes downhill from there, unfortunately.

    • monkeybutter says:

      This chapter is full of amazing lines. And yeah, I thought the same thing about Rudy. He doesn't want Liesel to be ignored. He's oblivious, but sweet.

    • knut_knut says:

      Same! I saw it as an example of how strong their friendship is- he wasn't calling Sister Maria out to be mean, but rather because he knew Liesel wanted to be given a chance. I assume if he was tattling, Liesel would have beaten him up too ^_^

    • erin says:

      Agreed. Both about Rudy's intentions and about “Can you spell Arschloch for me?” being the greatest thing in the book so far.

      I think the last chapter and this one was about the point that really got me into the story. Up til now it's sort of been "Oh, yes, sweet little Liesel who cries about her brother and loves her Papa and loves books and isn't she so sweet and wonderful??" And I thought she was a bit boring, to be honest. But then this badass side breaks out of her and I started to appreciate her spirit, as well as her capacity to make BIG MISTAKES.

      Totally failing to read her piece in front of the class? Beating the shit out of Ludvig? Snapping and lashing out at Tommy Mueller, just because he was there and dared to smile? This was a part of Liesel I think we needed to see.

  4. FlameRaven says:

    I have no idea how Death is supposed to look here, but for some reason I'm picturing him as a sort of beleaguered young man in jeans and a dark grey hoodie. I'm not sure why (obviously a hoodie is not period accurate, although with Death I somehow don't think it needs to be) but I do like that he isn't portrayed as the classic grim reaper. I really like this version of Death in general. He seems like such a chill guy, and pretty compassionate despite the work he has to do.

  5. This chapter is both gorgeous, hilarious, and poignant.
    I was bullied when I was little, though for entirely different reasons than Liesel or Mark. When I was 5 years old I moved to the US from Germany, and while I had been raised speaking English I had apparently acquired a slight accent. In Germany I had always thought of America as the fabled "Golden Land", where other chilren spoke English. I had some British friends, but my group was so international (I grew up on a street with a lot of kids from India, England, Pakistan, Austria, etc.) that we mostly communicated with fractured German and sign language.
    When we moved to Colorado and I had to introduce myself in Sunday School I would learn a whole new way to relate. You see, I was homeschooled, and my mum always made me promise I wouldn't "play dumb" for anyone. She knew that people wouldn't like a girl being that outspoken, but also knew that I wouldn't be happy if I changed myself to suit my surroundings. (continued..)

    • One boy in particular singled me out, and when I told him to stop I was called "Nazi Girl". I was stunned; it never occurred to me that I would be called names for being blonde and sounding different. The slur angered me all the more because I grew up with a much higher racial diversity in friends than he did, and I had seen the bombed-out buildings that still weren't repaired from WWII. In Germany "Nazi" is a word that you don't throw around the way we do in the US, where most people can't even wrap their minds around the horror that Europe experienced.
      Later on I would also lose my temper, though it was when I heard him using a racial slur on another child. I didn't take it as far as Liesel, but I understand what it is to snap. Seeing him inflict his bile on someone else was more than I could take. Who would have thought that a skinny little 9-year-old would teach herself such a graceful roundhouse? I don't defend my temper as a child, but I do smile when I remember him blubbering in a corner because he wouldn't admit to the teacher that he got kicked by a girl.

  6. cait0716 says:

    The comment Death makes, "You can love Rudy for that, if you like", has me really scared that Rudy's going to do something to cause me to stop loving him. Because right now I love him a lot. Everyone should have a friend like Rudy.

    Also, I really want more Hans backstory.

    I've started to view Death's interjections as something akin to footnotes or end notes. I think I've read enough things with footnotes or end notes (lots of Pratchett and journal articles) that these interjections really don't bother me. My brain is used to jumping out of the narrative thread and then back into it. But the constant interruptions do take a bit of getting used to, especially since Death doesn't give you the option of skipping them. All that to say, I'm starting to have a better understanding of why this style is difficult for some people. I'm falling more and more in love with it, though.

    • SecretGirl127 says:

      I see Death's narration as a story within a story. We get to see Death's world view and I think Death is fascinating. Death avoiding the human misery of survivors and instead focusing on the colors. Death being tickled by the idea that one would carry a sickle. Death's choice of stories to tell about the cast of characters in Liesel's life. Since I have no idea where the story is headed, I am equally interested in Lisel's story and the other tidbits we will learn about Death.

    • Madeleine says:

      I love this style too! I like it when books aren't set out the traditional way, it makes it more interesting.

    • thewhiteknight says:

      I'm glad to tell you that there will be a Hans back story soon.

  7. Emily Crnk says:

    I picture Death as a middle aged guy with graying hair and a massive trench coat… Although it could be a she… Does Death even have a sex?

    • Gillyweed says:

      It's feminine in Slavic languages and I think in Romance as well (correct me if I'm wrong).
      I read the book in Bosnian and I imagine death as female because narration is set that way. Also there are certain parts of story later in which death sounds completely feminine, at least to me.

    • Phoebe says:

      I've never really pictured Death as anything before, despite reading this book twice, until someone said that they imagine it as the one from the tale of the three brothers in HP, and now that's all I think of.

    • brieana says:

      for the "does death have sex" question, I'm going to guess no because sex is about, among other things, life. In a way.

  8. doesntsparkle says:

    Death, I don't need your permission to love Rudy.

    I don't think violent person, but I loved the part where Liesel beat up the kid who was bullying her. It's sort of a vicarious win for kids who were bullied. I tried to stand up to a group of boys who were picking on me when I was in seventh grade, I told one of them to "cuss off." It didn't work, they though it was funny.

  9. FlameRaven says:

    Ditto. And Mr. Rogers is quite creepy enough without also being Death, thank you. o_o

    • elusivebreath says:

      I had a crush on Mr. Rogers when I was a kid … is that weird??

      • knut_knut says:

        awww, that's cute! I used to LOOOOOVE Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood- it might explain why I love cardigans/dressing like an old man

    • ldwy says:

      Haha. I totally get how people can see Mr. Rogers as creepy, but I've gotta say, I loved him when I was a kid!

  10. zulaihaha says:

    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.

    Favorite line in the entire book?

  11. Has anyone here ever read "In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash" by Jean Shepherd? It's what the film "A Christmas Story" was based off of. Liesel's righteous ass-kicking reminded me of Ralphie attacking Scott Farkhus.

  12. jennywildcat says:

    (By the way—I like this human idea of the grim reaper. I like the scythe. It amuses me.)

    When I read that line in the book, I thought I was actually reading an aside in one of Mark's reviews (Just sayin'…)

  13. kaybee42 says:

    I've finally got my copy from home 🙂 and I caught up this morning so yay I can finally comment!
    I can't decide on a favourite character… Death, Rudy, Liesel, Hans…they are all too amazing 🙂
    Does anyone else think of Peeta now when Rudy gets described? I keep thinking of my mental image of Peeta =/

    • stellaaaaakris says:

      I definitely got a Peeta vibe from Rudy. Blond, blue eyes, not afraid to stir things up, fiercely protective of our protagonist, wants kisses from our heroine…too many parallels for me to ignore. Plus Peeta was my favorite character of THG and Rudy is quickly shaping up to be my favorite from this book (please don't die, please don't die, please don't die), but that could be just me.

    • BradSmith5 says:

      Kaybee! You got here! At last, I can talk about Dr. Who! Okay, I just saw the "Rise of the Cybermen" episodes––holy crap, Mickey got his moment of glory at last! I thought he was gonna die in a heroic sacrifice, though. I mean, that's what usually happens when the lovable loser gives the whole 'you all think I'm worthless' speech. Glad to see him live on, doing some good in 'Dimension B.'

      I suppose I'll switch back on-topic and say that I didn't think that Rudy was much like Peeta until you brought it up. My goodness, they both 'frosted' themselves to change their appearances, didn't they?

  14. elusivebreath says:

    +1 for referencing The Graveyard Book <3

    • FishGuts says:

      and + another 1 for mentioning Discworld

      you would have won a prize if you'd only mentioned the Death in Harry Potter – y'know, the one who gave the three brothers their toys (or hallows or whatever you want to call them. You say poh-tah-to, I say poh-tay-to)

      • FlameRaven says:

        Ah, well, I have only read Deathly Hallows the once, and to be honest the only part I really remember is the boring chapters of camping and bickering, and the final confrontation between Harry and Voldy.

        And I confess, I like Gaiman and Pratchett's mythologies just a bit more than JKR. I liked Harry Potter, but it didn't completely reorganize the way I thought about things, which Sandman did.

        • cait0716 says:

          I am so with you on that. Sandman completely changed my view of the world when I first read it. That Death is the Death I want to meet at the end of my life.

  15. stellaaaaakris says:

    I imagine Death's personality to be kind of like the Ninth Doctor's. I'm not exactly sure where I get this idea, maybe it's their reactions. While they both are affected by human sadness, Death when he sees those left behind, Nine the more time he spends with Rose, they still seem to have reactions that most people would not. Like for Nine, when Rose and the other humans are feeling like this:

    <img src=""&gt;
    or like this:

    <img src=""&gt;

    Nine's all like this:

    <img src=""&gt;

    Or some variation of that. (EDIT: I had to change Nine's pic a lot due to insufficient bandwidth and/or picture hugeness. He was a lot more oddly amused in the other pics.) (Note: I haven't rewatched any of Nine's epis since Mark, and I, first saw them, so I could be pulling this out of the air.)

    Maybe that's why I tend to think of Death as male.

  16. tethysdust says:

    I'm on Liesel's side with this one. I was bullied a lot during a period of my childhood as well. I think that the teachers felt bad about it, but couldn't figure out what to do. So I resorted to physical violence a few times. What surprised me was that, while I was punished, the adults always told me some variation of "You need to not resolve your problems this way in the future. But, he/she had it coming, so don't feel bad about it."

    I don't mean to say violence is a good way to deal with bullying, but I think it is one of the only options available to you when you're a child.

    • cait0716 says:

      I'm glad your teachers were basically on your side in that. After Columbine, we went through intense "bully-proofing" in my middle school that basically amounted to "never use physical force". I remember being told that even if someone larger has you trapped against the locker and is hitting you, you have to stand there and take it until a teacher arrives. And if you witness this scenario, you aren't allowed to intervene, just go find a teacher. It always seemed like complete and utter bullshit that self-defense was effectively prohibited. Good for you for standing up for yourself.

      • fantasylover120 says:

        Oh I remember that time after Columbine. In my school they had long talks about name calling and saying things like "I could just kill that person" and whatnot. All nice in theory but that didn't stop students from bullying eachother outside of school or when the teachers weren't around (which was often in high school). Plus I noticed they weren't as vigilant about it the next year.

      • Yeah, I don't like the attitude that self-defense is the same thing as "attacking". We had the same thing since Columbine happened in my home state, and as a result it made it easier to be a bully. It turned around to a nasty 'Institutionalized Victim Blaming', as I put it. Children are savage, has anyone ever read "Lord of the Flies"? Asking a kid to "go to their happy place" when they're getting knocked into the bleachers (as I was) doesn't really work.

      • tethysdust says:

        Thanks! It was definitely prohibited in my school as well, but defending myself was just worth the punishment at the time. I was really lucky to have teachers on my side, though. They didn't just let me get away with my actions, but they did take the context into account. It's been fifteen years or so since then, and I'm really not a violent person at all, so I guess everything worked out in the end.

    • Andrea says:

      "I don't mean to say violence is a good way to deal with bullying, but I think it is one of the only options available to you when you're a child."
      This is a really sad fact that I absolutely agree with. Being bullied is probably one of the hardest things a person ever has to go through since it is usually repeated over and over for long durations of time.

      This whole topic makes me think of the video in the news right now of the boy in Austrailia that body slammed a bully after being punched over and over in the face and stomach.

  17. Mary says:

    I LOVE RUDY!!!! he kinda reminds me of a character from a fantasy series by Tamora Pierce called the Protector of the Small…his name is Neal and the main similarity between him and Rudy are they are kind of smart-asses and the best friend of the heroine in the novels…if anybody has read Tamora Pierce you know what im talking about, if not…READ THEM!!! they are amazing, especially the series based in Tortall (this is also a suggestion to Mark if he wants another series to read, they seriously are very good 🙂

    anyways…again I LOVE RUDY!!!!! my fav character in this book, besides maybe Liesel and Hans…yea they are all amazing 🙂

    • canadadian says:

      O_O I did not even see this, but now that you say it it makes COMPLETE SENSE. Being interested in the ladies (ok, so he's just a kid, but wanting a kiss at that age counts, surely), quirky, a loyal friend, a total smart-aleck… it totally works.

  18. Kate says:

    I was bullied… short, non-athletic, big round glasses, too smart for my own good and too impatient to keep the answers to myself (even in university it drove me nuts when no one would answer the prof's question… I had to make a rule about how many I was allowed to answer in a single class).

    Unlike you, Mark, I thought that fighting was the way out. I was proud when I won, for having given some bully what he (it was almost always a he) what he deserved. I thought I would be respected. And in some perverse ways, I was. Although my mother says that one of her lowest moments as a parent was being called by the director of the local gifted program and informed that I had been in a fight. Thank goodness it was a short phase… grades 5 and 6. After that I moved on to other coping mechanisms.

    I never whaled on anyone like Liesel – my style was measured and minimalistic. I didn't want to be suspended, after all. I wish I could say that I'm now ashamed of how I acted, but I was a kid, and I can still remember the power of sitting on the chest of a guy twice my size, waiting for him to give up. It's heady.

  19. feminerdist says:

    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.

    I love this sentence.

  20. shortstack930 says:

    '“Why did he have to die?” she asked, but still, Rudy did nothing; he said nothing.'

    This to me has to be the saddest image ever. Liesel crying in the rain by the gutter after just losing her temper and beating up 2 boys, and still she's only thinking of her poor little brother. So sad.

  21. potlid007 says:

    I can totally relate to Liesel because this one time I head butted a bunch of people who were laughing at me in Kindergarten. It was pretty epic. Then I got in trouble. And I felt sad because I didn't have Rudy there to make me happy 🙁

  22. Joanie says:

    Oh, I wouldn’t be able to react like Liesel even I wanted to! I wasn’t bullied much but did get some taunts that stuck, which I generally ignored because I wasn’t brave enough to stand up to the taunters. Like you said, I didn’t want to give them more ammunition to tease me more with. And sadly, I don’t even run very fast either, so I wouldn’t be able to execute your plan of action either, Mark.

    There was no request for a kiss. Nothing like that. You can love Rudy for that, if you like.


  23. Hotaru-hime says:

    I've done that to my older brother, who was the greatest bully of my life. Not to the same extent, because of my perception of filial duty, but an attack nonetheless. It was gratifying in ways you cannot imagine.

  24. Brieana says:

    I also really like that last bit.

    And I thought that Rudy meant well when he pointed out that the teacher skipped Leisel. He didn't want his little friend to be forgotten.

  25. Lindsey says:

    Liesel's character really reminds me of Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables. When I read this chapter, it reminded me of when Anne cracked her slate on Gilbert's head and screamed at him for calling her "Carrots".

  26. Lady X says:


  27. Jake Cocoa says:

    When Rudy’s hair is described as lemon colored, one of my friends (we were reading it in school) thought that it meant that he dyed his hair with lemons. I took it the literal way and assumed that his hair was the color of lemons. I was wondering which you guys took it as when you read that passage.
    Also, when I was young there was this one boy that would torment me every day. He lived in my neighborhood and our parents were friends, so I didn’t have any sanctuary. He would make fun of me for the smallest things- my math scores, the way I wore my hair, every thing about me. I spent countless lunches at the counselor trying to resolve this, but nothing worked. I remember saying that I would slap him if he kept on being mean, but he thought that I would never follow through.
    Well, one PE, we had physical fitness testing. I never did well on shuttle run, and he knew. He asked me what I got with the intent of teasing me for it. So I snapped.
    For the first time in my life, I got in a fist fight. When it was over, however, he went running off to a teacher and said that I had punched him for no reason.
    It didn’t work immediatly, but he stopped bullying me.
    Nowadays we have the same bus stop. He’s not a friend, really, but he’s
    polite. He may have just grown up, but I like to think that I knocked some sense into him.

  28. Shanella says:

    I am finally caught up with you and I'm so glad it was at this scene!
    I think Rudy did that, not to troll her, but maybe he thought she was better at reading now. He was trying to motivate her from his seat …

    I really liked the ending of this chapter as well. Cheers to Rudy for staying with her in the rain.

  29. Gabbie says:

    The part where she doesn't magically know all the words and can read with great ease makes me love Liesel more. This totally would have happened to me under lighter circumstances.(not sure if I phrased that right: I would have stunk even without my reading problem)

  30. blessthechildren says:
  31. Madeleine says:

    I really love everything about this book, it's pretty much amazing. The language, the storyline, the characters. All so perfect! And I definitely, share your sentiments Mark, EXCITE about all that's gonna come

  32. Ida says:

    I was bullied. And I TRIED to beat up the bullies, but I couldn't. I am small and skinny and I am terrified of pain, so, well. I took it out on myself instead; not a good idea, in hindsight. However, this is why the scene where Liesel kocks the crap out of Ludwig Shmeikl really gets me, because I can so relate to how she feels.
    And I love Rudy. Thank you Death for letting me.

  33. len says:

    When I was young I was tormented in middle school by two boys. They would not leave me alone, and a girl helped them spread rumors about me because she did not like that I hung out with her friend. They threw papers at me, called me cruel names and made me feel worthless. Then my other classmates ostracized me because they did not want to be associated with a bullied girl. An outcast. They made my life hell when I was a child. To this day, I still feel that pain. When people whispered close to me, I would think they were talking about me. I knew I was being paranoid, but I still felt like the everyone hated me.
    Bullies are total assholes. I could never fight back like Liesel because those two boys weren't worth a suspension. However sometimes it would break my heart when my parents saw my miserable expression. They wanted to talk to the school about what happened, and they wanted to help me because they loved me. I didn't want to pull them into my troubles.

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