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Literature: Number the Stars

Number The Stars is a Historical Fiction children's novel by Lois Lowry.

The novel is about a Danish girl named Annemarie Johansen and her Jewish friend Ellen Rosen. They live in Copenhagen, Denmark during World War II. They are forced to move out into Annemarie's Uncle Henrik's home after Nazi soldiers demand to know the whereabouts of Ellen's Jewish family. Ellen, now disguised as Annemarie's dead sister Lise, joins the Johansen family in Uncle Henrik's home. Annemarie has to face her fears in order to save her friend.

It received the John Newbery Medal in 1990.

This novel provides examples of:

  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Kirsti.
  • Bittersweet Ending
  • Book Ends: In the beginning, Annemarie is racing with Ellen on the street. At the end, she is running to deliver a package that will help the Rosens escape.
  • Cheating with the Milkman: When the Nazis search the Johansens, Ellen is pretending to be Annemarie's sister. She has dark hair that is different from the others' blond hair, so the Nazis ask if they got her from the milkman.
  • Coffin Contraband: A coffin loaded with essential supplies for Danish-born Jewish refugees is used in order to avoid being seized by Nazi soldiers. There was a close encounter with one until the soldier was "advised" that the coffin bore the dead victim of typhus.
  • Death by Newbery Medal: Peter dies during the time skip, and Lise died in the backstory when a Nazi car struck her. However, Ellen and other Danish Jews survive and are evacuated.
  • Did Not Die That Way: We are told that Annemarie's older sister Lise was killed when she was hit by a car near the beginning of the Nazi occupation of Denmark. At the end of the book, Annemarie's parents tell her the truth: Lise was a member of La Résistance. She was hit by a car, but it was a car driven by Nazis who deliberately ran her down as she tried to flee from them.
  • Double Meaning Title: The title references the Star of David badges used by the Nazi regime to identify Jews, but also alludes to a famous passage from the Book of Genesis about God's covenant with Abraham and the birth of the Jewish people ("Look toward the heavens and number the stars, if you are able to, and so shall your descendants be,").
  • Dramatic Necklace Removal: The Nazis are coming, and Annemarie realizes that Ellen still has her Star of David necklace on, so she yanks it off just in time. However, she warns her that it will hurt, and at the end, she asks her father to fix it so she may wear it herself until Ellen comes back.
  • Dye or Die: Peter has red hair, so he must wear a hat to keep the Nazis from discovering him.
  • La Résistance: The Danish Resistance
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: Lise died because she was hit by a car. In the end, it is revealed that she was intentionally hit by the Nazis, because she was part of La Résistance
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Annemarie and Mrs. Johansen do this when dealing with the Nazis.
  • Red-Headed Hero: Peter.
    • Heroes Want Redheads: Lise's involvement in the Danish Resistance makes her one and she was engaged to Peter.
  • Title Drop: During the fake funeral, Peter reads from Psalm 147, which describes God as "He Who numbers the stars one by one."
  • World War II: The setting
  • You Don't Want to Catch This: A casket is used to hold the supplies of the Jews in hiding. A German soldier comes in and they say that they are holding a funeral for "Great-Aunt Birte". The soldier tells them to open the casket, but Annemarie's mother says that "Great-Aunt Birte" died of typhus, and the doctor warned them against exposure.


Brian's SagaNewbery MedalManiac Magee
Not Quite HumanChildren's LiteratureThe Ogre Downstairs
Grandfather ParadoxWorks Set in World War IIThe Diary of Anne Frank
North and South (Trilogy)Historical Fiction LiteratureThe Oathsworn
NumbersYoung Adult LiteratureThe Obernewtyn Chronicles
The Number of the BeastLiterature of the 1980sThe Obernewtyn Chronicles

alternative title(s): Number The Stars
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