Number the Stars
|Number the Stars|
|Cover artist||Lois Lowry|
|Pages||138 total number of pages including about the author and afterword|
Number the Stars is a work of historical fiction about the escape of a Jewish family from Copenhagen during Occupation of Denmark during the Second World War because of the Holocaust by award-winning author Lois Lowry. The story centers around ten-year-old Annemarie Johansen, who lived in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1943 and was caught up in the events surrounding the rescue of the Danish Jews. She risks her life to help her best friend, Ellen Rosen, by pretending that Ellen is Annemarie's older sister. Annemarie's older sister had died earlier in the war as a result of her work with the Danish Resistance. The story's title is taken from a reference to Psalm 147, in which the writer of the book relates that God has numbered all the stars in the universe. It is meant to tie into the Star of David, specifically to Ellen's necklace, which is symbolic to the story.
The novel was awarded the Newbery Medal in 1990 as the "most distinguished contribution to American literature for children". Lois Lowry travelled to Copenhagen to do research and interviews for the book. She took the photo of the girl used for the cover of many editions of the book herself (shown in infobox here).
Plot summary 
The story opens as two Nazi soldiers stop Annemarie Johansen and her friend Ellen Rosen and ask them both questions on the streets of Copenhagen. That night, Annemarie reminisces about her older sister Lise, who was hit by a car and killed (it is later revealed that the Nazis intentionally hit her). She also recalls her father seeing a boy tell a Nazi soldier about how all of Denmark is King Christian X's bodyguard. Peter Nielsen (Lise's fiance), a man working in the Danish Resistance, visits Annemarie and her family and tells them that the Germans have started closing Jewish stores. The next day, Ellen and her parents go to the synagogue for a Jewish holiday, but come to find out that the Nazis have demanded lists of the Danish Jews. They will use these lists to arrest and relocate the entire Jewish population. Peter takes Mr. and Mrs Rosen with him into hiding, and Ellen Rosen (disguised as Lise) comes to live with the Johansens.
In the middle of the night, Nazi soldiers arrive at the Johansens' apartment and demand that they reveal where the Rosen family is. Annemarie rips off the Star of David necklace which belongs to Ellen to conceal her identity of being Jewish. The Nazi soldiers become suspicious because Annemarie and Kirsti have blond hair, but Ellen has dark brown hair. Mr. Johansen retrieves baby photos of his three daughters, with their names listed, which clearly show that Lise had hair similar to Ellen's when she was a baby. The soldiers leave.
After the Nazis leave, Mr. Johansen calls his brother-in-law, Henrik, and makes encoded arrangements to bring Ellen to him. Later, Annemarie, Ellen, Mrs. Johansen, and Kirsti leave by train for Uncle Henrik's home in Gilleleje. One peaceful day goes by at Henrik's, then Mrs. Johansen tells the girls that their Great-aunt Birte has died and they will be having a funeral. However, Annemarie knows that Great-aunt Birte does not exist, and confronts Uncle Henrik. He explains to her that she is right, and says that it is easier to be brave when you don't know the full truth.
Many strangers arrive at Uncle Henrik's house for the funeral, among them a rabbi and several Jewish families. A group of Nazi soldiers arrive and interrupt the funeral, and Ellen's parents arrive shortly after. A soldier asks her mother to open the casket. Her mother told the soldier that she would love to do so, since country doctors were not reliable, and it was only the country doctor who told them that opening the casket would spread germs because Great-aunt Birte had died from typhus. The soldier slaps her face and leaves in frustration. Peter reads the beginning of Psalm 147 to the group from the Bible, recounting the Lord God numbering the stars. Annemarie thinks that it is impossible to number the stars in the sky, and that the world is cold and very cruel like the sky or the ocean, which Mrs. Rosen is scared of.
Peter opens the casket and distributes warm clothing and blankets to the Jewish families who then depart, splitting up to attract less attention. Annemarie says goodbye to Ellen and her mother (which is one of the people secretly taking them). In the morning Annemarie spots her mother in the distance crawling because she broke her ankle and when she goes back she sees a package that is important to the Resistance was accidentally dropped by Mr. Rosen when he tripped on a flight of stairs. Mrs. Johansen, knowing the importance of the package, gives Annemarie a basket filled with food and hides the package inside. Annemarie runs off, onto a wooded path towards her uncle's boat.
When she nears the harbor, she is stopped by German soldiers on patrol, and lies that she is merely delivering lunch to her uncle. The soldiers don't believe her and one of them grabs at the basket. The soldiers eventually let her go, and Annemarie makes it to the boat. She is able to give Uncle Henrik the envelope that contains a handkerchief. The handkerchief has a chemical on it that causes the Nazis' dogs to lose their sense of smell temporarily. After sniffing the handkerchief, the dogs are unable to smell Uncle Henrik's hidden "cargo" — the Jewish people who he is smuggling to safety.
Uncle Henrik returns to Denmark later that evening and explains to Annemarie that the Rosens and many other Jewish people were hiding in his boat. He also explains that a handkerchief in package contained the scent of rabbit blood and cocaine, to attract the dogs so when they sniffed it, the cocaine would temporarily numb the German dogs' sense of smell.
Two years later, the war ends, and all of Denmark celebrates. Several revelations are made: Peter was captured and executed by the Germans. The Jews who were forced to leave Denmark return and find that their friends and neighbors have kept up their apartments in anticipation of their return. Annemarie finds out how Lise died, Lise died because the Nazis intentionally hit her with a car. To remember her best friend, Annemarie asks her father to repair Ellen's Star of David necklace (which had been broken off the night the Nazi investigated the house).is broke into the apartment in order to conceal her identity), wanting to wear it herself.
- "Newbery Medal and Honor Books, 1922-Present". American Library Association. Retrieved 2008-11-22.
- "The Newbery Medal". Powell's Books. Retrieved 2008-11-22.
- Lowry, Lois. "Lois Lowry Interview". Scholastic. Retrieved 22 September 2012.
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|Newbery Medal recipient