The Book Thief: Writing Style & Tone

Instructor: Kathleen Jopa

Kathleen has taught at an elementary/ middle school for six years and holds a master's degree in instructional leadership in literacy, language, and culture.

Good writers know that what they write and how they present the information affects the reader. This lesson discusses writing style and tone and how the author uses it in 'The Book Thief.' Read the lesson and take the quiz!

Authors Think About Style and Tone

It's a celebration! You are invited to Sam's 8th birthday party. We hope you can make it!

Think about a time you have invited friends to a birthday party. What was your attitude about the party? Did you want your friends to come? How did you extend the invitation? Did you write it? Use email? Send a text message?

What you wrote and how you presented the information determined the tone and style of the invitation. Good authors pay attention to the style they are using and the tone they are creating when they write because it affects how the reader interprets what they read. In this lesson, you will learn about style and tone and how the author uses them in The Book Thief.


Style has to do with the way something is written. The author is extremely careful about how he/she writes a story and how it will affect the reader. For example, the author might use all capital letters to indicate that a character is yelling, or an exclamation mark to show that a character is excited.

Markus Zusak, the author of The Book Thief, uses a unique style by having Death be the narrator. Death talks to you directly. In Part 6, Death says ''They were French, they were Jews, and they were you.'' Death is letting you know that the people suffering are not much different from you.

Death is also used to foreshadow, or give you a clue about what is going to happen later on in the novel. At the end of Part 2, Death says, ''I guess humans like to watch a little destruction. Sand castles, houses of cards, that's where they begin. Their great skill is their capacity to escalate.'' This foreshadows that the destruction in Europe is going to escalate, or worsen.

The Book Thief has a unique style because Death serves as the narrator.
Picture of Death


Tone in writing is not much different from tone of voice. Have you ever heard someone say, ''Don't use that tone of voice with me!'' Perhaps you have heard someone speak with an angry or sarcastic tone and then thought, ''Man, that person sure has a bad attitude.'' An author's tone is like that, as it has to do with his/her attitude toward the story and reader.

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