There is another raid before Christmas, and everyone in the shelter listens as Liesel reads The Whistler. When Liesel and Rosa return home, Rosa cuts open a bedsheet and takes out Max's sketchbook. She says Max said to give it Liesel when she was ready, but that Liesel has always been ready. The cover of the book says The Word Shaker: A Small Collection of Thoughts for Liesel Meminger. Liesel reads it in the kitchen. Most of the first part is little sketches with captions, or thoughts and dreams, or memories of the Vandenburgs.
Rosa shows again how proud she is of Liesel – she feels Liesel is mature enough to handle even the darkest of Max's thoughts. This is another important book for Liesel's life, and will condense many of the novel's themes. Once again, it is written over Hitler's words, an example of creative, compassionate language overcoming and undoing words of hatred and abuse.
The second part of the book is an illustrated fable called The Word Shaker, and Death recreates the pages. The story begins with Hitler discovering the power of words, and then deciding to use words to rule the world. In the story, words grow like seeds, and soon Hitler grows huge forests that drop words into people's brains as they pass by on a conveyer belt. There are people who climb the trees and drop the words to the people below, and these people are called "word shakers."
Max's story is basically a condensation of the novel's overarching theme – the power of words for good or evil. Hitler decides to use words to rule the world, implying that they are more powerful than weapons, money, or influence. The forest of words that he plants is essentially the Nazi propaganda machine.
There is one little girl who is a great word shaker because she knows the true power of words, and she is always hungry for them. One day she meets a man who is hated by his home country, and they become friends. When the man gets sick the word shaker lets a tear fall on his face. The tear becomes a seed, and the girl plants it and tends to it. Soon it becomes the tallest tree in the forest.
It is only the word shakers who live outside the propaganda system, as they understand the power of language. These could be artists and writers, but also people like Hitler – they can use the power of words for good or evil. It is Liesel's compassion that grows the tallest word-tree.
One day Hitler arrives and demands that the tree be cut down. The word shaker climbs up the tree, and while she is there the soldiers' axes cannot damage it, even after hundreds of men try to cut it down. Seasons pass, and finally everyone gives up and leaves the word shaker alone, but she still won't come down.
Max is saying that Liesel built an impenetrable shelter for both herself and Max through her words and her compassion, a haven that not even all of Hitler's armies could break into.
One day a new axman appears, but instead of an ax he has a hammer, and a crowd gathers to make fun of him. He drives nails into the tree trunk and uses them to climb up to the top. The word shaker is sleeping, but the man wakes her up and she recognizes him as her friend. The two talk and look around at the forest and then they climb down together. As soon as their feet touch the ground the tree falls, destroying much of the forest. The man and the word shaker climb onto its fallen trunk and watch the rest of the crowd dispersing back into the woods. Liesel finishes the story and wonders where in those woods Max is now. She falls asleep and dreams of the tree.
Max is the only one able to climb the tree, implying that Liesel let him into her refuge both physically and mentally, and he found safety from Hitler not only in her home but also in her words. They look around at the forest as they once discussed the weather and the outside world. The Book Thief is essentially about such moments as these – escaping and transcending suffering through art, and finding happiness in small moments of beauty and friendship.