Book Review: Number the Stars

My daughter Ellie and I read the book Number the Stars by Lois Lowry together. I chose to read this book with her because I believe children need good examples of bravery right now. Because our children need to learn about other children, even fictional ones, showing what true bravery is, to show them that they, too, can be brave, even in their young age. This story is the story of a brave young girl named Annemarie, and though fictional, her story is based on true events and a real girl who lived in Denmark during World War II.

Since my daughter and I read this book together, we are writing this review together. When I asked her to describe what the book was about, her first response was, “Number the Stars is about two friends helping each other.” I knew she had gotten one of the points the author was making – and that is that true friends help each other, and again, true friends are brave for each other. One of the girls, Ellen, is Jewish and Annemarie, who tells the story, is from a Christian family. The two families live in Copenhagen in 1943, when the Nazis take over Denmark. At first everything is almost as normal as it has been throughout the war, but then they hear that the Nazis want to “relocate” the Jewish people. Having read about Anne Frank with my daughter, I explained that this relocation was to a concentration camp like the one Anne had been in, so she was familiar with what that meant and connected the story to a real person. This connection made the story much more real and relevant. And so because of this threat of this “relocation” of Danish Jews, people like Annemarie’s family decide to help them escape to Sweden, a free country, where they can be safe from the Nazis.

This fictional novel is based on the real movement in Denmark where almost 7,000 Danish Jews were smuggled to Sweden as the Nazi threats grew. It is a story of a young girl learning how to be brave in the face of unspeakable danger. The book personalizes the story with Annemarie and her friend Ellen, but it tells more of the Danish Resistance and the broader movement as well. Annemarie knows her family knows more about what’s going on than she does, but they don’t tell her in order to keep her safe. But even as she begins to understand the real danger she and others are in, she shows incredible bravery. There’s a part near the end that really had us on the edge of our seat. We generally read one chapter of a book a day, but the last four chapters we read all at once because we couldn’t put it down.

My daughter says, “The book was inspiring because Annemarie was so brave. Annemarie was very thoughtful.”

We all need stories of bravery right now, and Number the Stars is a beautiful one to read with your children. It’s heavy, yes, but it tells an important story, one we all must learn. Ellie said she learned that a lot of people didn’t like some people, but other people helped others no matter how dangerous it was. Yes. That’s what we need.

What stories will you be reading your children to teach them to be brave? 

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