Silent Film Strip Summaries

Last week we zoomed in on one chapter. This was an important chapter because it gave us the backstory of Max and Walter, and how they became connected to Hans. This chapter also gave us the opportunity to discuss the accordion as a symbol. We saw that it represented comfort for Liesel, while meaning kept promises for Hans. I had my students summarize this chapter in 5-8 frames. We began by brainstorming some frames that we could put together to summarize this chapter. We outlined the main events and talked about how we could transform these summary events into a silent film strip. Below, you will see their creative efforts. They were able to effectively and efficiently create a silent summary, using still photos that captured the main events. I’ve also added a brief summary in words of the chapter below their photos. This is a fun project and can be taken in several different directions. If you choose to incorporate this assignment into your classes, you might consider other alternatives such as having the students create a silent movie rather than using still photos. Or the students could have a “narrator” type of character in their still photos who holds short phrases written on small poster board to explain the scene. You could have one student share their silent film and have another student guess which chapter it came from. So many options and opportunities with this activity. And as you will see below, the students can incorporate friends and family into their scenes. I love how Jacob and Lorenzo used their dog as the baby in one of the scenes. Be sure to leave a comment with your own ideas of how this could be used in a classroom or with homeschoolers. I’m always on the hunt for new ideas.

Jacob and Lorenzo’s silent film strip of “The Accordionist” from The Book Thief –¬†

silent film 1
Death looks on as Max arrives to Himmel Street. Inside Hans’s kitchen is where he asks, “Do you still play the accordion?”

silent film 3
The Sergeant and his men.

silent film 2

Hans and Erik solidify their friendship through a game of cards

silent film 4

Erik takes death so Hans can escape it

silent film 5
Hans visits Erik’s wife after the war


silent film 6
Walter finds Hans to ask if he’s ready to keep a promise

Summary – Max stands in the kitchen and asks Hans if he still plays the accordion. ¬†Then Death brings the story back to World War I, when Hans was fighting in France. He became friends with a Jewish man named Eric Vandenburg, who taught him to play the accordion. One day the sergeant asks for someone who can write well (to write letters for the captain), and Erik volunteers Hans, knowing that the rest of them will be going into battle. In this way Erik saves his life, as all the other men in Hans’s company die that day, including Erik himself.

Hans kept Erik’s accordion, as it was too heavy to be sent home. After the war he came to Erik’s wife (and young son) and offered his help if she should ever need it. He wanted to return the accordion but she insisted he keep it. Hans left his name and address if she needed a free apartment-painting, but he never expected to see them again.

Time progressed and the Nazi party grew popular, but Hans refused to join because of his debt to Erik Vandenburg. He began to lose customers because he wasn’t a party member, so finally he submitted his application. That same day he offered to paint over the words “Jewish filth” on the door of a Jewish man whose shop had been trashed. Hans kept his promise, and then returned to the office and retracted his application to the Nazis. He was then placed on the waiting list, but was generally left alone because of his skill at painting and playing the accordion. Then one day Hans was on his way to a painting job when a man named Walter Krugler approached him and asked if he still played the accordion, and if he would keep his promise to the Vandenburgs.