Number the Stars | Lois Lowry
Awards: Newbery Medal
Three years ago, the Nazi’s invaded the city of Copenhagen, Denmark, but Annemarie Johansen can still remember a time before their suspicious questioning, a time before their guns and shiny boots on every street corners, a time when cupcakes with pink frosting could still be eaten, a time when her sister Lisa was still alive. Now things are worse. The Nazis have seized the names and addresses of every Jew in Denmark with plans to relocate them to concentration camps. Annemarie’s best friend, Ellen Rosen is a Jew. What will happen to her? And what can Annemarie do about it? Readers follow along with the Johansen family as they work to hide and rescue their the Rosens from under the watchful eyes of Nazi Germany. Annemarie knows she must be brave, but she isn’t sure if she can be brave enough.
Antiseminism. A man slaps a woman. Character death.
Stories about Nazi Germany and the people who fought against them always make me feel incredibly sad and incredibly motivated. Through Annemarie I can believe (or hope) myself capable of great bravery. The courage of the Jews and people who protected them washes over me when I remember that their stories are real. My grandfathers fought in World War II. Lois Lowry defines bravery in Number the Stars as not thinking about that which scares you, but thinking instead of what you must do, inspite of your fears. Annemarie’s story is very simple and this simplicity is the bulwark of its power. When bad things happen, we can and must do something about it. This is balanced with the truth that we cannot save the whole world. Annemarie could not help every single Jew in the city of Copenhagen, let alone in all of Denmark, but she gives herself to helping her friend Ellen Rosen. And that help is enough. That’s all any of us can ever do; help our neighbors and friends right where we are. This is a fantastic message for children in a time when loving our neighbor as ourself is as foreign a concept as do what is right rather than what is easy.
ps. I’ve been in a Lois Lowry/World War II rut recently. Any suggestions on what I should read next?