Book Club Party: The Book Thief

Boost your book club appeal, with well thought-out details straight from your
novel. From the invites to the décor, Studio 5 Contributor Teri Harmon has all
the inspiration and ideas you need to pull off an impressive book club party.

A book club is about four things: bringing books to life, making reading
enjoyable, bringing friends together and having another excuse to throw a
fabulous party. Turn your book club into something extraordinary. Do it by
pulling ideas directly from the book that translate into food, décor, invites,
favors and more.

Book Description: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

There are few books that have the power to change your life. The Book Thief
is one such book. Set in 1939, Nazi Germany, this extraordinary tale of hope,
love, sacrifice and the joy of life’s simple pleasures is not the typical World
War II book. LieselMeminger’s life is forever changed when, after her dead
brother is buried in the frozen ground, she steals The Grave Digger’s
Handbook from the cemetery. The first of many stolen tomes, this book
begins a love affair with books and words. With the help of her accordion-
playing foster father, Liesel learns to read and write, two small things that
have the power to save her life.

Despite her sweet father and the comfort of her stolen books, Liesel’s world
is not an easy one to live in. Nazi Germany is a dangerous place to be a
German or a Jew.And when her new family takes in a runaway Jew and hides
him in their basement, things grow even more harrowing.

Narrated by Death, author Markus Zusak’s story is a major achievement. His
unique and superbly beautiful writing and incredibly layered prose will stay
with you forever. He takes a grisly, nearly unbearable subject and turns it
into a triumph that everyone should experience.

This is the perfect book for the Thanksgiving season because each page will
make you grateful for what you have.


The character, Max, the Jew hiding in the Meminger’s basement, passes his
endless days by reading, writing and drawing pictures. In honor of his and
Liesel’s sweet relationship, the invitation looks like one of the books he
makes for her by tearing pages from Mein Kampf, painting over the words
and then writing his own.

Rip three pages from an old book. Using a cream or white acrylic paint, paint
over the words in a thin layer allowing some of the type to show through.
Allow to dry and then tear pages to desired size. Hand write the information
for the book club over 3-4 pages with a black fine point Sharpie. To add even
more meaning, copy some of Max’s drawings onto the pages as well.
Assemble the pages like a book and tie together with some string or twine.

Activity and Book Discussion

This activity is a tribute to the way Liesel learns to write and spell. Because
paper is scarce during the war she practices her words by painting them on
the basement wall with left-over paint from her foster father’s job.

Prepare a large black poster board or foam board and white marker or paint
pen. Hang on a wall or lay on table in the room you are holding club. As
guests arrive instruct them to write on the board any of the following from
the book: favorite character, quote, idea, word, scene, feelings etc.Then
during the book discussion use the things written on the board to guide the
conversation and use as talking points. Have guests talk about why they
chose to write what they did.

There is also a reading group guide in the back of the book to help with the


The people in this book have very little money and live very simple lives,
going without many comforts. To mimic that feeling, keep your décor simple,
nothing fancy. Use a black and white or cream color scheme pulled from the
dominos on the book cover. Place dominos on tables, in vases or candle
holders, even scattered on the floor. And, of course, lots of books stacked
around the room to represent all the books, reading and writing that are
central to this story.

For food service I found some beat-up old tin plates and old fashioned glass
jars at the Star Mill Antique Store in American Fork – 147 East 600 North.

You can also include Germanic elements like traditional beer steins or
pictures of Germany during WWII.

If you’d like, find some accordion music and play it softly in the background.
Liesel’s foster father plays the accordion and his music has an important role
in the book.I recommend Chansons: Absolute Accordion.


This simple, but memorable favor is super cheap and easy. Dominos play a
special symbolic role in this book – so much so that they chose to put that
image on the cover. Buy a small set of cheap dominos (Wal-Mart has some
for about $4) or scrounge some from your game collection.

With a hot glue gun attach a small magnet to the back of each domino (same
number as guests). Magnets can be purchased at any craft store. With twine
or thread tie this short, but meaningful quote to the domino (on painted
book page paper, like invites). “I am haunted by humans.” – Death.Or any
significant quote.

Explain to guests that this domino is a reminder to savor the simple things in
life and never take for granted all that we have. A prompt to be grateful for
each day.

This can also be attached to the small jars of apple butter (see food section
below), if you’d like to present them together.


Main Dish

The food should also be simple and humble, just like the food in the book.
Instead of taking a dish directly from the book I suggest making the food
more personal. A great way to make a story mean more is to connect it with
something personal.

The Meminger family has very little money and they eat thin, unappetizing
pea soup for nearly every meal. You could serve pea soup, of course, but I
recommend, if applicable, thinking back to a time in childhood or life when
money was tight. What did your family eat? Is there a meal that represents
that time of life for you?

When I was young my family did not have a lot of money. My mother valiantly
stayed home with six children and we relied on my dad’s one income. For me
the quintessential money-is-tight meal is Campbell’s bean with bacon soup
served with buttered white bread. To this day just the smell of it says
childhood to me.

If you have a similar memory, use it and tell your guests about it as you serve
them. Draw parallels to the book.

Of course, I wouldn’t want to serve canned soup to my guests, so I came up
with this delicious homemade bean with bacon. Here’s the recipe if you want
to use this instead of your own “poor” dish.

Homemade Bean with Bacon Soup


3 cans white northern beans

4 cans water

1 small can tomato paste

4 – 12 strips smoked bacon

½ tsp dried thyme

½ tsp red pepper flakes

1 cup diced carrot

½ cup diced celery

½ cup diced onion

2 tsp minced garlic

1 Tb olive oil

Salt and Pepper


1 – In a large stock pot combine 2 cans beans with liquid, 4 cans water, 2
strips of raw bacon, thyme, red pepper and a little salt and pepper. Bring to a
boil and then simmer.

2 – While beans simmer fry remaining bacon. One strip per person to be used
as a garnish for serving soup. Using kitchen shears cut bacon into small
pieces before frying for quicker cooking.

3 – While bacon fries, dice all the veggies.

4 – When bacon is crispy, transfer to paper towel to drain and cool. Drain all
the fat from skillet except about 1 Tb. Allow pan to cool slightly and then
add about 1 Tb olive oil. Sauté veggies and garlic over medium heat for 5-7
minutes or until tender. Add in tomato paste and stir. Cook for another 2-3
minutes. Remove from heat.

5 – Once the bean mixture has simmered for 20-30 minutes, add in
veggie/tomato mixture. Stir well to combine and allow to simmer for another
20-30 minutes.

6 – Rinse and drain remaining can of beans and then puree in food processor
until smooth.

7 – Once soup has finished simmering, remove the two strips of bacon that
have been cooking in soup and discard. Then add in bean puree to thicken.
Salt and pepper to taste.

8 – Garnish with crispy bacon pieces. Serve with crusty bread and butter or
homemade corn bread and honey.

Serves 4-6.


The perfect complement to this soup or just a simple dessert is apple butter
served with crusty bread or rolls. Also good with cheeses.In the book Liesel
and her friend, Rudy, in desperate moments of hunger, steal apples and
devour them. Any apple dessert would work, but this is easy and humble.And
if served in small individual jars (I used baby food jars) can also be taken
home by guests as an additional favor – if there is any left.

Easy Apple Butter


4 pounds cooking apples, peeled, cored and sliced (about 12 cups)
2 cups sugar
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg


1. Place apple slices in a 3-1/2- or 4-quart slow cooker. Stir in sugar, water,
vinegar, cinnamon, cloves, allspice and nutmeg.

2. Cover; cook on high-heat setting for 5 to 6 hours. Stir. Cool mixture at
least 1 hour or cover and chill overnight.

3. Ladle apple butter into half-pint storage or freezer containers, leaving a
1/2-inch head space. Seal and label.Store 3 weeks in refrigerator or for 1
year in freezer.Makes 4 half-pints.

Note: You can use any kind or any combination of apples or any variation of
spices, all according to personal taste.

You can find more ideas from Teri at

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