Number the Stars is the story of Annemarie, a 10 year old Danish Christian girl in 1943. Denmark is occupied by the Nazis, and now they are preparing to deport all of the Jews, including Annemarie’s best friend, Ellen, and her family. Annemarie’s family works with Ellen’s family to spirit them away, and the events occurring around Annemarie do not always make sense. But she wants her friend to be safe, desperately, and is willing to be brave to help.
While the characters in Number the Stars are fictional, the events portrayed are very much real. I had never read anything about the rescue of the Danish Jews before. What an amazing display of collective resistance. The people of Denmark worked together to save the vast majority of Denmark’s Jewish population, by spiriting them away to neighboring Switzerland.
I read Number the Stars for my 2nds Reading Challenge, where the challenge is to read a book by an author of whose work you’ve only read one other book before. I added it to my Book Awards Reading Challenge as well, as it received the 1990 Newbery Medal.
Number the Stars is a Children’s Book, and reads like one, but it is among the best in the genre. However, sometimes truth can be even more poignant than fiction. Lois Lowry includes an afterword to the book, discussing the facts and details of the rescue, and in that afterword she included a quote which spoke to me, much like the words of Anne Frank. These are the words of a young man, Kim Malthe-Bruun, a 21-year old member of the Danish Resistance.
…and I want you all to remember – that you must not dream yourselves back to the times before the war, but the dream for you all, young and old, must be to create an ideal of human decency, and not a narrow-minded and prejudiced one. That is the great gift our country hungers for, something every little peasant boy can look forward to, and with pleasure feel he is a part of – something he can work and fight for.
That would be a great gift indeed, and one that is needed here and now, more than ever.