Title: Number the Stars
Author: Lois Lowry
Publisher: Laurel Leaf
First Publication: 1989
Major Characters: Annemarie Johansen, Ellen Rosen
Setting Place: Denmark in 1943
Theme: Children’s literature, Historical Fiction, World War II
Narrator: Third Person
Book Summary: Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
Ten-year-old Annemarie Johansen and her best friend Ellen Rosen often think of life before the war. It’s now 1943 and their life in Copenhagen is filled with school, food shortages, and the Nazi soldiers marching through town.
When the Jews of Denmark are “relocated,” Ellen moves in with the Johansens and pretends to be one of the family. Soon Annemarie is asked to go on a dangerous mission to save Ellen’s life.
Book Review: Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry is about a ten-year-old girl living in Copenhagen, Denmark during the Nazi invasion. Young Annemarie Johansen’s life is drastically altered, between her disappearing neighbors, rations on food and Nazi soldiers on every corner.
When the invasion in her neighborhood begins to progress and get serious, Annemarie learns that the war is effecting her a lot more than she ever imagined it would. Her best friend’s family, the Rosens, are forced to separate for their safety, and Annemarie learns that when the world you live in needs improvements, bravery is always appreciated, regardless your age.
“She fell asleep, and it was a sleep as thin as the night clouds, dotted with dreams that came and went like the stars.”
At the beginning of Number the Stars by Lois Lowry, Annemarie seems used to and accepting of the Nazi soldiers on every corner. By the end of the story she knew that there needed to be change and she would help in any way to make that happen. This included risking her life.
The Holocaust is a subject that’s inherently harrowing. This book, however, manages to bring a ray of light into that dark time: it’s fictionalized, but it focuses on the real-life rescue of virtually the entire Jewish population of Denmark, smuggled by the Danish Resistance to safety in Sweden. (This isn’t a spoiler, since the jacket copy provides that information).
“And they are beginning to realize that the world they live in is a place where the right thing is often hard, sometimes dangerous, and frequently unpopular.”
It remains a story that looks human evil full in the face; incidents large and small drive home to the reader the ugliness of the Nazi’s treatment of both Jews and Danish Gentiles. And even for readers who’ve read the jacket, Lowry conjures a palpable atmosphere of gripping tension and danger. But ultimately this is a story of the triumph of the human spirit and of human decency.
In Number the Stars by Lois Lowry, author’s messages are about toleration of differences between people, about cross-cultural and inter-religious friendship, and about the obligation of “ordinary” people to find the stuff to be heroes and heroines when circumstances call for it –lived out here in the object lesson; especially, of a small girl who’s believably called upon to face enormous danger, in the face of her own fear. The plot is excellently crafted.
“it is much easier to be brave if you do not know everything”
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry is a gripping and moving novel that truly deserves its Newbery Medal. Lowry has twice won the coveted Newbery Award, once for this book. She’s writing here of events in her own lifetime; but because she’s going back to the time when she was an even smaller child than Annemarie here, and lived through World War II in the U.S. rather than in Denmark, she didn’t grow up knowing the background of this book, and had to research it much as she would have for a historical fiction novel. The Afterword tells how she came to be inspired with this project, and what aspects of the book are factual.