Review: Number the Stars

Sweet on Books

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Title: Number the Stars

numberthestars250.jpg Author: Lois Lowry

Themes: Award Winners, Character/Values, Friendship, Good Book Club Selection, History, War

Published: 1989, 156 pages

'Sweet' book summary:
Reviewer: Melissa G.

What would life be like if the leader of your country lost his power and there were foreign soldiers on the streets? What if those in charge didn't even speak the local language? What if food was scarce or there was a curfew at night?

Those difficult concepts and images are portrayed in Number the Stars, and they are aspects of life that became the norm for ten-year-old Annemarie Johansen and her best friend Ellen Rosen when the Nazis occupied Copenhagen.

Although they continued to play games and have fun together, they were surrounded by harsh realities. Things only got worse when they learned that the Nazis were going to arrest the Danish Jews. Rather than succumb, however, the Johansens, along with many other Danes, showed incredible courage in the face of social injustice. They went to great lengths to hide and help their Jewish friends. Even Annemarie played a role as they deceived the Nazis. Jewish families, like the Rosens, also had to be brave as they attempted to escape the Nazis.

Witnessing these circumstances through the eyes of a 10-year-old can be tragic, but at the same time enlightening. Annemarie learns that sometimes we protect those we love by telling them only what they need to hear. She discovers that we may not know the depth of our courage until we are put into a situation that requires us to find it, but even then, bravery is simply our ability to carry on despite the fear that comes to anyone in a perilous situation. And, as Annemarie tells her father that "all of Denmark must be bodyguard for the Jews," the reader realizes that she understands the importance of kindness and respect toward all people.

Number the Stars addresses a serious subject in a very approachable way. It is handled so well that it is even appropriate for some readers as young as fourth grade. The language is straightforward with enough detail to give depth to the story but not so much as to make it overwhelming. Some basic historical facts are included, and although deaths are mentioned, there are no gratuitous details. This book really earned its Newbury Medal and would be a valuable addition to every bookshelf.



What You Need to Know:
  • Two young girls living in Copenhagen in 1943 find courage as they endure the Nazi occupation of their country.
  • Number the Stars was awarded the Newbury Medal in 1990.
  • There are mentions of people dying, but the main character doesn't witness it happening.
  • This book is often used in classrooms, and many study guides can be found online. Here is one example.
  • The Afterword in this edition explains which parts of the story are fact and which are fiction.
  • Every year, a day is set aside to commemorate Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah). This year it begins the evening of Wednesday, April 18, 2012.

If you liked this book, try:
  • Terezin: Voices from the Holocaust by Ruth Thomson
  • The Midnight Zoo by Sonya Hartnett
  • Is it Night or Day? by Fern Schumer Chapman

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