“Number the Stars” by Lois Lowry

Although The Giver may be Lois Lowry’s most well-known work, I really wanted to talk about another one of her exceptional stories.  Number the Stars is a Newbery-award winner; it tells the story of Annemarie Johansen, a nine-year old girl living in Copenhagen during World War II.  Annemarie’s best friend is Ellen Rosen, her Jewish neighbor.  When the rabbi at Ellen’s church warns her parents that the occupying Nazis are going to begin deporting families, the Johansens offer to help by pretending Ellen is their daughter.  In truth, Annemarie’s parents had lost their daughter Lise in a mysterious car accident.  The night when Ellen is staying with them, however, Nazis come pounding at the Johansen’s door.  They must do some quick thinking to prove that they are not hiding any Jews.

Annemarie’s parents decide that they must take Ellen out of danger, so the next day Mrs. Johansen, Annemarie, her sister Kirstie, and Ellen go to Uncle Henrik’s house near the boarder.  There, Ellen’s parents reunite with her, and they must get on a boat to take them to Switzerland without being caught.  When Annemarie’s mother twists her ankle, though, Annemarie has to find the courage to help in the escape plan.

This book quite accurately provides a look into the mind of a child during the War and is loosely based on a true story.  The reader is kept in the dark, just as Annemarie is, about the events going on around her.  Thus we understand her curiosity and apprehension.  The story deals with Annemarie’s desire to help her friend, and the subsequent discovery of her own courage.  Lowry speaks from Annemarie’s point-of-view with such honesty that readers will identify times in their own childhoods when they felt similarly.  Despite the cruelty of that War, this novel shows that the ties between family and friends can be stronger than hate, as many Danes were able to smuggle Jews to Switzerland and ultimately save their lives.

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