Book Review: Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

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I’ve had an interest in the tragic events surrounding World War II and the Holocaust that began when I was in the play The Diary of Anne Frank in high school (I played Anne’s sister, Margot). Since that time I’ve tried to learn all I can about what the Jews experienced during those years.

I’ll never comprehend the horrific circumstances so many of them faced, and I’ll always mourn for the lives that were lost. What’s hardest for me to make sense of is the loss of innocence that so many Jewish children lived through. I think that is why I enjoyed reading Number the Stars by Lois Lowry so much.

My 11-year old daughter’s class read Number the Stars at school and my daughter insisted I read it. It is the fictional story of ten-year old Annemarie Johansen and her best friend, Ellen Rosen, two young girls who live in Denmark during the German occupation.

The book is written for children the same age and tells the story of Ellen’s family’s escape from Copenhagen to Sweden to avoid capture by the Germans.

A Heartfelt Look

number the stars

Beautifully written and at times difficult to process, Number the Stars offers a glimpse into the thoughts and feelings of a young girl living through the German occupation. Annemarie’s story gives readers a heartfelt look at what it must have been like to see things happening and not understand why.

Annemarie and Ellen know that there are German soldiers throughout their city, and they know they’re supposed to avoid getting their attention. They also remember the time when the soldiers weren’t there, so they haven’t forgotten what is was like to enjoy the abundance of food and freedom they once had.

Their families are struggling and they want to make sense of it, but nothing from the last three years does, including AnneMarie’s older sister’s death.

Making the Best of Difficult Times

Annemarie and Ellen know their families are in different kinds of danger, so when Ellen’s family (who is Jewish) disappears, leaving Ellen in the care of her friend’s family, they are determined to make the best of it.

These two best friends certainly do – they still laugh and play together despite the fear they both feel. However, when they board a train to Annemarie’s Uncle Henrik’s house, they know their situation is very serious.

Uncle Henrick is a fisherman who lives in a beautiful meadow, and you can see across the water to Sweden. When they arrive at his home they begin to understand some of the strange happenings, and Annemarie is more determined than ever to protect her friend.

A Sensitive Topic

Number the Stars is a glance at what times were like in 1943 for both Jewish and non-Jewish families who wanted to help them. It helped me understand better the fear and anger they must have felt, and I highly recommend the book for children ages 10 and over.

This book addresses a heavy topic that younger students may not be prepared for, yet it sensitively handles it for older students. I learned a great deal from reading it, and I know my daughter did as well.

You can learn more about author Lois Lowry at her website and also at her blog, Lowry Updates.

Number the Stars addresses a difficult event and helps older kids processes it in a sensitive way. Do you have some favorite books that you use as resources for teaching kids about difficult times or topics?

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Comments

  1. I read this in my college juvenile lit class – what a read! Love Lowry – would be a great selection for an older children’s book club.

  2. Oh this is a beautiful book, thanks for the memory!!! Isn’t Lois Lowry fabulous

  3. I love this book!! And I’m adding it to our summer reading list.
    .-= Marla Taviano´s last blog ..when the lights go out =-.

  4. kimberley says:

    I love that book too. I remember yelling at the soldiers haha. A great book for discussing the civil rights movement is The Watsons go to Birmimgham by Christopher paul Curtis. Its really funny and told from a little brothers perspective.

  5. I loved this book as a kid – I first read it in 4th grade and many times over (I was a history geek even as a child!). Twenty years later and it’s still on my list as one of my favorites. There’s a really good nonfiction book for young readers about the Danish resistance that compliments it well called ‘Darkness over Denmark’ by Ellen Levine.

  6. I’m adding this to my list of must reads. I love Lois Lowry. My favorite book of all time is her book The Giver. Thanks for the great review as it pertains to our children.
    .-= Erin Long´s last blog ..A Headband Holder =-.

  7. Thank you for sharing this. We have this book at our library and I am going to check it out right now.
    warm wishes, Tonya
    .-= Plain and Joyful Living´s last blog ..Birch Bark Vase Cover =-.

  8. Thank you for the great review. I have been trying to get my 11 year old to read this one for a while now, but that newberry sticker sets him off, I think I will read it myself.
    My daughter and I loved the Goony Bird Greene books by Lois Lowry, she uses such a fun story to teach about stories with great vocabulary for the younger kids.
    .-= shelle´s last blog ..little carrot =-.

  9. Brittany says:

    We recently read “Izzy’s Fire” by Nancy Wright Beasley at my church – it is the story of a Jewish Lithuanian family and what they endured during, and how they survived, the Holocaust. We were very honored to have Jay Ipson, the little boy from the book (one of only 48!! Jewish children to escape Lithuania alive – he was 6 at the time that his family was forced into a ghetto) and current Executive Director of the Virginia Holocaust Museum, come and speak with us. This is a book that would be good for high schoolers, but probably not younger children as it contains some pretty horrific details about what took place in Lithuania (largely at the hands of fellow Lithuanians). We recommended “Friedrich” for middle school children and “Henry’s Freedom Box” (not about the Holocaust but about slavery and the concept of treating every person with dignity and respect) for the younger children. I will check out “Number the Stars” as my own children get older.

  10. I will definitely check out Number The Stars. Australian author Morris Gleitzman has written an amazing trilogy on a boy’s experience of Nazi Germany. It deals with issues like the death, friendship, judgement and much more. You can read the first chapters of each of the books or listen to the audio book here:

    Once
    Then
    Now
    .-= PlanningQueen´s last blog ..World Cup Kids Activities – Flags =-.

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