Number the Stars

By: Lois Lowry
Published by Yearling (a division of Random House) in 1989.
Courtesy of Amazon

"It is much easier to be brave if you do not know everything.” This is a concept that little ten-year old Annemarie had to learn for herself. Through one of the darkest times in Denmark’s history, Number the Stars gives its readers a look into what the people of Denmark did to help the Jews escape the German Nazis. The bravery of each character is tested in this novel, and each character learns something more about who they really are with the challenges that are presented to them. The Nazis have taken over the world that the people of Denmark knew, and even Annemarie's five-year old little sister does not remember a time without having the soldiers as a part of her life.

Annemarie’s best friend Ellen is Jewish, yet this had never presented a problem until the Jewish New Year in 1943. The rabbi at the synagogue advised its members that the Nazis where coming to “relocate” them, and if it were at all possible they should leave town. Ellen stays with Annemarie’s family, and she is uncertain where her parents are going. A surprise visit from the Nazi soldiers tests Ellen’s bravery and puts the family on edge. Annemarie’s parents decide a trip to the country is safer and necessary . After learning about the death of her Great-aunt Birte, who she knows does not exist, Annemarie starts to ask questions. Her good friends Peter Neilson, Ellen’s parents (the Rosens,) show up for the funeral as well as many other people who she does not recognize. After the funeral ceremony, and after the families are certain that there are no soldiers outside listening, Annemarie finds out exactly what was going on. A dark walk through the woods takes these Jewish families to the harbor where Annemarie’s uncle is waiting with a boat that is going to lead theme to safety. When one of them drops a package that is needed by her uncle, Annemarie is given her own chance at bravery. She succeeds, and because of her bravery everyone is safe. The war ends a few years later and the novel ends with Annemarie’s father fixing the necklace she took from Ellen when the soldiers came to their house that night so that she can return it to her best friend.

Recommendations for Teachers

This novel would not be appropriate to teach in a high school setting because it has a much lower reading level. Students in the fifth or sixth grade would have a lot more to gain from this story of bravery and friendship. It may be necessary for teachers to provide a background on the Holocaust before teaching this novel. Students at this age have probably never learned about this point in history and they've more than likely never heard the word "Holocaust". Before beginning reading it would be vital to introduce other short writings from this time so that students would get an idea of where the story was headed. An excerpt from a history book may also help to explain these unbelievable events in an understandable way. An activity could be done to show students what percentage of the population was eliminated during the Holocaust. This may help the students to feel sympathy that will continue growing as they begin their reading of the novel. Teaching "Number the Stars" to students in late elementary or early middle school may open doors to endless learning about a critical period in history.

Biography of Lois Lowry

Lois Lowry (Hammersburg) was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. Growing up as a middle child Lowry is extremely close to her younger brother Jon. Her oldest sister Helen died when she was only twenty-eight which inspired her to write the book A Summer to Die. Lois also married young. At the ripe age of just nineteen years old she married a Navel Officer. Together they had four children, two sons and two daughters. As her children grew up and moved away Lowry decided that she was go back to school. She attended the University of Maine (1972) and earned her B.A in English Literature. A couple years later she then returned to the University of Southern Maine and began to write professionally.

Currently, Lois Lowry is now divorced but enjoys the company of her Tibetan terrier named Bandit and enjoys reading, photography, knitting, and gardening. She is also working on some Gooney Bird, which are books for younger readers (younger than what Lowry is normally used to). Lois Lowry is also the author of other popular books, which include The Giver, The Silent Boy, Gooney Bird Greene, and Gossamer.


In this video, Lois Lowry talks about her own life experiences and how the book A Summer to Die relates to her life, except fictional. She also talks briefly about the reasons why she prefers writing for adolescents.
Additional Resources:
Lois Lowry's official website Information about the author of "Number the Stars".
Anne Frank This site was developed by a non-profit organization to help teach students the importance of overcoming prejudice.
History of the Swastika Background information about the legendary symbol that shaped the beliefs of the Nazis and how it came to be the universal sign of hate. The Holocaust History Project is an archive of documents and writings regarding the Holocaust. This site could be used to help teachers find writings by Holocaust victims and survivors. The Holocaust Encyclopedia can be used by teachers to find any information that they may need to inform their students about the Holocaust and events surrounding the it. Education World provides numerous lesson plans for teaching about the Holocaust. This could be very helpful in getting students to put themselves in the shoes of the victims. This site provides a great amount of other children's novels about the Holocaust. Short stories or excerpts could be read from these to help students get into "Number the Stars". This site includes lesson and activity ideas for teachers who want to help their students learn about the Holocaust. Information about the Jews of Denmark during the Holocaust. Information about the Jewish faith and the beliefs of a persecuted people.