The story begins on a train station - a girl and her mother and brother are on their way somewhere: the mother has made the decision to give the girl, Liesel, and her brother to foster parents. Liesel's father is missing, and her brother does not survive the train journey. At his funeral on a frozen winter day Liesel finds in the snow "The Gravedigger's Handbook" and takes it with her. This is her first act of book thievery, but certainly isnt her last.
The story then continues through Liesel's life in Molching with her foster parents and friends (one a Jewish fist-fighter) as the effects of a hostile and brutal war begin to take its toll. Through hunger and air-raids Liesel's life is all about the books she steals and the impact that their words have on her life and the lives of the people around her.
I did not buy this book when it first came out as I thought - hmm, MORE WWII stuff, but I found it second-hand in a bookshop and bought it. I'm glad I did - it was a lot better than I originally expected and has an ending that had me in tears. Zusak's choice of narrator works brilliantly: An ordinary story told in an extraordinary way.