Book Review: Number the Stars

Lowry, Lois. Number the Stars. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin, 1989.

Ten-year-old Annemarie Johansen and her best friend Ellen Rosen often think about life before the war. But it’s now 1943 and their life in Copenhagen is filled with school, food shortages, and the Nazi soldiers marching in their town.
The Nazis won’t stop. The Jews of Denmark are being “relocated,” so Ellen moves in with the Johansens and pretends to be part of the family.
Then Annemarie is asked to go on a dangerous mission. Somehow she must find the strength and courage to to save her best friend’s life. There’s no turning back now.

The Newbery Award winner for 1990, this is another one I read as a child. I didn’t remember anything about this book except that it has to do with things that happen during World War II. And I really liked it. A lot of kids read this book as part of the curriculum in elementary school.

It’s a slim book and mainly covers one sequence of a couple days. That’s a good thing, I think. For kids too young to read Anne Frank’s diary, Number the Stars is a simple introduction to the war without touching on major horrors like concentration camps. Lowry based the novel on stories she heard and read about Denmark, and there is an Afterward to explain which elements of the novel are based on facts.

I enjoyed this novel as a child, and I think that’s largely because I was reading about girls roughly my own age. I could relate to their love of playing with dolls, and Annemarie’s annoyance at her little sister from time to time. As I said, it’s a good basic introduction to World War II for children. As an adult, especially knowing how much more there is to the war and how much worse it was in other countries, I was a bit disappointed. I love Lowry’s The Giver (which is another Newbery winner) because the story is deep and layered, and the issues brought up are very interesting to ponder. Number the Stars is for a younger audience, and while there are a few good talking points, I was expecting more.