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In 1938, young orphan Liesel (Sophie Nélisse) arrives at the home of her new foster parents, Hans (Geoffrey Rush) and Rosa (Emily Watson). When Hans, a kindly housepainter, learns that Liesel cannot read, he teaches the child the wonders of the written language. Liesel grows to love books, even rescuing one from a Nazi bonfire. Though Liesel's new family barely scrape by, their situation becomes even more precarious when they secretly shelter a Jewish boy whose father once saved Hans' life.