After delivering the first handfuls of snow, Liesel checked that no one else was outside, then proceeded to take as many buckets and pots out as she could. She filled them with the mounds of snow and ice…. Once they were full, she brought them in and carried them down to the basement….
When his wife appeared, Hans Hubermann risked his life by throwing a most excellent snowball at her…. Once she recovered, she came down and helped them. She even brought the buttons for the eyes and nose and some string for the snowman smile.
All through January, he managed to hold himself together, but by early February, Max was in worrisome shape. He would struggle to wake up next to the fire, sleeping well into the morning instead, his mouth distorted and his cheekbones starting to swell. When asked, he said he was fine.
In mid-February, a few days before Liesel was thirteen, he came to the fireplace on the verge of collapse. He nearly fell into the fire.
Every day, Liesel read two chapters of the book. One in the morning before school and one as soon as she came home. On certain nights, when she was not able to sleep, she read half of a third chapter as well. Sometimes she would fall asleep slumped forward onto the side of the bed.
It became her mission.
She gave The Dream Carrier to Max as if the words alone could nourish him.
The tirade went on for perhaps another minute, with Liesel making a desperate suggestion or two about the possible location of the said brush. It ended abruptly, with Rosa pulling Liesel close, just for a few seconds…. “You told me to yell at you. You said they’d all believe it.” She looked left and right, her voice like needle and thread. “He woke up, Liesel. He’s awake.” From her pocket, she pulled out the toy soldier with the scratched exterior. “He said to give you this. It was his favorite.”
On this day, it was Papa who rose to the occasion. He rushed to the basement door and threw a warning down the steps. When he returned, he spoke fast and fluent. “Look, there’s no time for tricks. We could distract them a hundred different ways, but there is only one solution.” He eyed the door and summed up. “Nothing.”…
Papa was strict. “Nothing. We don’t even go down there—not a care in the world.”