Title: Number the Stars
Author: Lois Lowry
Major Themes: 20th century, Denmark, Historical Fiction, Second World War, Jewish History
Synopsis: Annemarie and her family must hide Ellen, a Jewish girl, from the Nazis—but can she find the strength and courage to stand up against the soldiers?
I’m glad I didn’t live during the Second World War under the Nazi regime. There are lots of stories out there—mostly from the Allied point of view—that, while fascinating, make me very glad I’ve never had to live through anything like that. Number the Stars, another wonderful book for young children by Lois Lowry, was one of those books that while bringing the events to life, also made me thankful for the mild, settled life I live.
Annemarie Johansen, a normal ten-year-old girl in Copenhagen, remembers life before the war. Now, Nazis patrol the streets, and they live without the delicacies they had before. As time goes on, it’s becoming more dangerous to live a normal life. Nazis are beginning to “relocate” Jews, and her best friend, Ellen Rosen, is a Jew and is in danger of being taken away. When the Johansens take Ellen in for protection, they know the risk they are taking. They hope Ellen’s parents, who went with a family friend, will be safe as well.
One night, at four in the morning, the family are startled awake by a pounding on the door. Harshly, the German soldiers demand to know where the Rosens are—and when they don’t find out what they want to know, they search the house trying to find a trace of the family. Then, one soldier notices Ellen’s dark hair in comparison with Annemarie’s lighter-colored hair. Will they find out that Ellen isn’t a member of the family after all their precautions to hide her identity?
I love Number the Stars because it tells a wonderful story—complete with a tense climax. Children—and possibly adults, too—will really enjoy this story. This is one that’s hard to forget. I believe children aged seven and over would especially enjoy the story. This is one of those books that is great for introducing the story of the Nazis vs. the Jews to younger readers.
WARNING: May be a little tense in places for some younger children, but should be fine overall. There is a bit of lying, but nothing I took offense at.
Read Aloud—Ages 5 – 8, 8 – 12
Reading Independently—Ages 7 – 9, 8 – 12