A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry (The Giver), is a poignant read about the Nazi occupation of Denmark that won the Newbery Medal, the highest honor in children's literature, in 1990. Expect some tense moments between kids and Nazi soldiers, once on the street, other times in their homes, and another time a girl is alone in the country with soldiers who have two large dogs. Nazis slap the main character's mother. There are mentions of deaths and disappearances, too, including the death of the main character's sister, who was hit by a car before the story begins. Beers are offered to adults and a baby is drugged to keep her quiet on a dangerous night. The main character, 10-year-old Annemarie, doesn't see herself as brave at first, but then she performs a selfless act and uses her wits to save others. The Christian Danes possess a sense of community that includes their Jewish neighbors and work to save them from the Nazis.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Is it any good?
Author Lois Lowry doesn't waste a word in Number the Stars, starting with Annemarie and Ellen's frightening run-in with German soldiers in the opening chapter. In quick strokes, Lowry establishes the setting and characters and foreshadows Annemarie's subsequent encounters with soldiers, each of which increases the tension. The symbol of stars weaves in and out: When the crowd of escaping Jews gathers, they are comforted with the words of Psalm 147: "O praise the Lord ... he who numbers the stars one by one." "How can anyone number the stars?" Annemarie wonders.
But she is one of the brave Danes who save their Jewish neighbors, one by one. The moving Afterword is crafted as carefully as the novel, making the point that these fictional characters represent real people whose idealism was a gift to the world.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about lying in Number the Stars. What does Uncle Henrik mean when he says to Annemarie that it's easier for her to be brave if she doesn't know everything?
What did you learn about Denmark and World War II from this book?
What does the title of the book mean? (It's a bit hard to decipher, so look to the chapter titled "Let Us Open the Casket," and to Annmarie's reaction to the Bible passage there.)
- Author: Lois Lowry
- Genre: Historical Fiction
- Topics: Activism, Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Great Girl Role Models, History
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Children's Books
- Publication date: January 1, 1989
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 9 - 12
- Number of pages: 137
- Award: Newbery Medal and Honors
- Last updated: September 29, 2019
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