On a snowy night, the book thief Liesel Meminger and her six-year-old brother Werner are traveling with their mother by train to Munich, where Liesel and her brother are to be given over to foster parents. Half asleep, Liesel dreams of Adolf Hitler speaking at a rally where Hitler smiles at Liesel, and Liesel, who is illiterate, greets him in broken German. As Liesel s mother sleeps, Liesel sees Werner die, and Death takes Werner s spirit but remains to watch what happens next. The train stops due to track work, and the three exit with two guards who argue over what to do with the body.
In Munich, Liesel is given to foster care authorities and driven up to Himmel ( Heaven ) Street in the small town of Molching. There is the home of Rosa Hubermann , a squat woman with a short temper, and her husband Hans Hubermann , a tall quiet man who rolls his own cigarettes. At first Liesel refuses to get out of the car; only Hans is able to coax her out. Liesel has just a small suitcase containing clothes and the stolen book: The Grave Digger s Handbook.