Based on the novel by Markus Zusak, The Book Thief is set in Germany during World War II. The story is narrated by Death (voice of Roger Allum) and concerns a young, highly spirited girl Liesel (Sophie Nélisse) who becomes orphaned when her mother is taken by the Nazis for being a communist. She also loses her little brother who dies on the train journey to their new home. At the impromptu roadside burial, Liesel steals a book from the gravedigger - The Gravedigger’s Handbook.
Liesel is handed over to her adoptive parents; the gentle Hans (Geoffrey Rush) and the sharp tongued but kind hearted Rosa (Lisa Watson). She is initially withdrawn but Hans reads to her from The Gravedigger’s Handbook each night and this forms a strong bond between them, as well as a great love of books and reading. Hans also teaches Liesel to read and write.
Meanwhile the Nazis are becoming more powerful. Liesel befriends her next door neighbour Rudy (Nico Liersch) and together they attend Hitler youth meetings. They watch a ceremony of book burning and a denunciation of Jews and communists which appals Liesel.
Liesel’s adoptive family are placed in grave danger when Hans and Rosa hide a young Jewish man called Max (Ben Schnetzer). He is the son of a soldier who saved Hans’ life in WWI. Max and Lisa become firm friends and share the love of books and literature. Liesel ‘steals’ books from the Burgermeister’s wife (Barbara Auer) to read to Max. War however, eventually comes to their neighbourhood and Death arrives and takes its dreadful toll.