Number the Stars
by Lois Lowry
book talk
author/illustrator study
classroom connections
list of related books
related websites
1990 Newbery Medal
1990 National Jewish Libraries
1990 Sidney Taylor Award
1990 National Jewish Book Award
Book talk

    The Newbery winning young adult novel, Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry tells a tale of a ten-year-girl living in occupied Denmark.  There, Nazi soldiers on the street corners are a common occurrence. Although life was hard for Annemarie and her family, between food shortages, the loss of their eldest daughter, and fear of the Nazis, life just got harder.  Annemarie’s best friend, Ellen Rosen, is Jewish.  All the Jewish citizens of Denmark are being rounded up and “relocated”.  Their “relocation” is to concentration camps.  Ellen and her family share this fate, unless Annemarie and her family do something to stop it.  Ellen spends the night at Annemarie’s house, although her parents are no where to be found.   After an encounter with Nazi soldiers, Ellen, Annemarie, her mother and sister all travel into the countryside where there is a Resistance to the Nazi power.   Strange things keep happening once they reach the country, like having a funeral for an aunt that never existed.    The whole book plays on the idea of  “ignorance is bliss”, for when Annermarie learns her own family is a part of the Resistance, she must do her part to save her best friend’s life.

    This fast paced emotional ride will quickly win its way into your heart.  Each character is strong, interesting and easy to relate to.  The reader quickly becomes involved with the characters. Throughout the novel the reader hears the inner fears of Annemarie and the text seems to be building up to her huge heroic moment.  However when it comes, it is a small let down.  Although it might not be a heroic as a summer Hollywood blockbuster, it is realistic.  Never does the reader forget that this is a ten-year-old girl and that is why the ending is forgivable.  Overall the novel is charming, and it is understandable why Number the Stars has become a staple part of the reading curriculum.

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Author/Illustrator study

    Lois Lowry, author of Number the Stars, was born on the twentieth day of March in 1937 in Hawaii.  Her father was a dentist in the military and they moved many times before she graduated high school.  She attended Brown University in Rhode Island.  Her sophomore year was cut short when, at the age of nineteen, she married a naval officer they had four children (Who have since made her a grandmother.).  They led the military life for a number of years, and for a while settled in Cambridge, Massachusetts, while her husband, having left the military, went to Harvard Law School.  They then settled in Maine.  Lois Lowry has said, “My children grew up in Maine. So did I.”  She went back to college at the University of Southern Maine, after completing her degree she went back for graduate work, then began her career as a professional writer. She has lived in Tokyo, Pennsylvania, New York City, Washington D.C., Florida, Connecticut, California and her present location in West Cambridge, Massachusets with a nice weekend place in New Hampshire; a nineteenth century farmhouse.  Her writing has reached places like a futuristic world, Belgium during the Holocaust, and traversed issues like adoption and cancer.  Her marriage ended in 1977 but her career was only beginning.  She has won two Newberry medals.  Her work is widely humanistic and so makes connections to many issues that assist children’s comprehension.  Lowry has many successful children and young adult books.  Her approach to the human race is a largely compassionate one. Although Lowry portrays some “bad” people in her books, in Number the Stars, for example she first portrayed a couple of nosy, but very kind Nazi soldiers before ever showing us the monstrous ones that so mistreated the characters in the novel.  A great part of her writing deals with the interconnected nature of reality. We as humans living with each other in harmony and conflict, and humans intertwined in the larger world are common underlying themes for her work.

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Classroom connections

Classroom Activities for Number the Stars

1. Possible Journal Entries: Have you ever been discriminated against?  How  would you feel if you were in Ellen’s position?  How would you feel if you lived in Europe during this time period?

2. Have the students get in groups, where each will represent a different community found in the book. One could represent a Jewish family or community, one could represent a Danish family, such as the Johansen’s, one could represent German soldiers or Nazis, one could be people who are hiding Jews, etc. Give the students a summary of what their group thinks and how they are supposed to act, then have them interact in class, acting as these people. This activity can take a couple of days because, after they discuss who they are and how they are going to act, then act that way, they can have group discussions, then a class discussion, about how they felt as that group. This can also be something to have the students write journal entries about.

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List of related books
Other books by Lois Lowry:
A Summer to Die. Boston. MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1977.
All About Sam. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1988.
Anastasia, Absolutely. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1995.
Anastasia Again! Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1981.
Anastasia Ask Your Analyst. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1984.
Anastasia at This Address. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1991.
Anastasia at Your Service. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1982.
Anastasia Has the Answers. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1986.
Anastasia Krupnik. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1979.
Anastasia on Her Own. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1985.
Anastasia's Chosen Career. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1987.
Attaboy, Sam! Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1992.
Autumn Street. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1979.
Find a Stranger, Say Goodbye. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1978.
The Giver. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1993
One Hundredth Thing About Caroline. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1985.
Rabble Starkey. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1987.
See You Around Sam! Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1996.
Switcharound. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1985.
Taking Care of Terrific. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1983.
Us and Uncle Fraud. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1984.
Your Move J.P.! Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1990.

Books with the World War II Theme:
Air-Raid Pearl Harbor by Theodore Taylor (Harper, 1971)
Alex, Who Won His War by Chester Aaron (Walker, 1991)
Aloha Means Come Back: The Story of a World War II Girl by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler (Silver Burdett, 1991)
Along the Tracks by Tamar Bergman (Houghton, 1991)
Autumn Street by Lois Lowry (Dell, 1980)
Bad Times, Good Friends by Else-Margret Vogel (Harcourt, 1992).
Behind the Bedroom Wall by Laura Williams (Milkweed Editiions, 1996)
The Children of Bach by Ellis Dillon (Simon & Schuster, 1992)
Dawn of Fear by Susan Cooper (Aladdin, 1989)
Fireweed by Jill Paton Walsh (Farrar, 1988)
Goodnight, Mr. Tom by Michelle Magorian (HarperCollins, 1982)
           Hiroshima No Pika by Toshi Maruki (Lothrop, 1982)
The Kingdom by the Sea by Robert Westall (Farrar, 1990)
Lights Go On Again by Kit Pearson (Viking, 1993)
On the Wings of Peace: In Memory of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by Sheila Hamanaka (Clarion, 1995)
Other Bells for Us to Ring by Robert Cormier (Dell, 1990)
The Ring and the Window Seat by Amy Hest (Scholastic, 1990)
Snow Treasure by Marie McSwigan (Scholastic, 1958)
Stepping on the Cracks by Mary Downing Hahn (Clarion, 1991)
Summer Endings by Sollace Hotze (Clarion, 1991)
 The Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene (Dial, 1973)
Waiting for Anya by Michael Morpurgo (Viking, 1991)
The Year of Impossible Goodbyes by Sook Nyul Choi (Houghton, 1991)

Picture book
Rose Blanche, by Roberto Innocenti (Creative Editions, 1986)
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Related Websites
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The people who worked on this project are:
Erinn Crowley
Murphy Turner
Ellen Campion
Brooke Coalter

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