Number the Stars

Number the Stars Summary and Analysis of Chapters 8-10

Chapter 8


Annemarie gets up early to enjoy breakfast with Kirsti and Mama. They have oatmeal with cream from Uncle Henrik’s cow—a luxurious breakfast compared to what they usually eat in Copenhagen. There is even a small bit of butter for the bread. The girls joke about the Germans ‘relocating’ Denmark’s butter to feed their own soldiers. When Ellen wakes up, she plays outside with Annemarie and Kirsti.

Uncle Henrik returns home in the afternoon, and Mama teases him about his house, which is dusty and cluttered because he has no wife to clean up after him. Annemarie listens to Uncle Henrik and Mama’s conversation, but she is very confused by what they are saying. Uncle Henrik says he will spend that night on his fishing boat because tomorrow will be a good day for fishing—but Annemarie knows that Uncle Henrik goes fishing every day despite bad weather.

Annemarie becomes even more confused when Uncle Henrik announces some sad news—Annemarie’s Great-Aunt Birte has died. They will display her casket in Uncle Henrik’s living room the following night. Annemarie, who loves hearing stories about the family history, racks her brain, soon realizing that there is no Great-Aunt Birte.


In Chapter 8, Lowry subtly reminds the reader of the danger that Ellen and the Johansens face, even when they are in Uncle Henrik's idyllic home. At the beginning of the chapter, the girls are as happy and well-fed. They frolic openly in the meadow, play with the animals, and eat rich food that they can never find in occupied Copenhagen. However, the shadow of the Germans always hangs over them. They try to make light of it, though, and Annemarie and Kirsti joke about soldiers ‘relocating’ Denmark's butter in the same way that they are relocating the country's Jews. Humor is a way for them to deal with the hardships they will soon face.

Mama and Uncle Henrik use code language to discuss their resistance activities, similar to the language that Papa used on the phone earlier in the novel. Annemarie is able to figure out that they are speaking in code because she is observant and intelligent. She has always been interested in her family history and the world around her, so she notices inconsistencies in what Mama and Uncle Henrik say to each other about Great-Aunt Birte. As Annemarie figures out these little mysteries, Lowry shows the character maturing. Annemarie is becoming increasingly aware of what is happening around her, but she knows to keep this information to herself.

Chapter 9


After dinner, Annemarie goes out to the barn alone to ask Uncle Henrik about Great-Aunt Birte. She is angry that he lied to her, but Uncle Henrik explains that he only lied because it will be easier for Annemarie to be brave if she does not know everything. At first, Annemarie does not understand this, but then she thinks back to the day that she and Ellen were stopped by the German soldier on their way home from school. It would have been harder for Annemarie to answer the soldier’s questions if she had known at the time that the Germans wanted to take the Jews away. After thinking about this, she realizes that Uncle Henrik and Mama are just trying to protect her.

That night, a hearse delivers Great-Aunt Birte’s casket. Many strangers arrive soon after and sit silently in the living room. Mama tells the girls that these people have come to mourn Great-Aunt Birte, but Annemarie knows this is not true. Ellen, on the other hand, still thinks Great-aunt Birte is a real person and is very sad that the Johansens have lost a relative. Annemarie wants to tell Ellen the truth, but she remembers what Uncle Henrik said and realizes that it will be easier for Ellen to be brave if she does not know.

After a few hours, Uncle Henrik asks Ellen to come outside with him. A few minutes later, they come back inside with Peter Neilsen and Mr. and Mrs. Rosen.


In Chapter 8, Annemarie takes responsibility for Ellen by promising to keep her necklace safe. In Chapter 9, Annemarie protects Ellen again deciding not to tell her friend that the adults are lying about Great-Aunt Birte. Annemarie knows that telling Ellen the truth would make her feel better because it would ease the burden of this secret. However, she also knows that things will be easier in the long run for Ellen if she does not know the truth. The fact that Annemarie is able to prioritize the greater good over short-term relief shows that she is growing up.

Uncle Henrik tells Annemarie that she is not the only one who does not know the whole story. He explains that he and Mama are also only being told what they need to know. This is a historically accurate portrayal of how the Danish Resistance operated. Danes who were actively resisting the Germans only knew what they needed to know to do their jobs, so if they were caught, they would not be able to tell the Germans major secrets. This way, the capture of one person would not topple the entire resistance movement.

Chapter 10


Once everyone has arrived, Uncle Henrik says that it is time for him to leave. He leaves through the front door. Shortly after that, a German soldier knocks and demands to know why so many people have gathered at the house. Mama explains that they are holding a vigil for her Great-Aunt Birte. The officer notices that the casket is closed, even though it is Danish custom to keep the casket open to allow mourners to say good-bye to their loved one. The soldier asks why the casket is closed, and Mama explains Great-Aunt Birte died of typhus and the doctors have warned them that the corpse could still be contagious. However, she offers to open it anyway if the officer wants to have a look. He slaps Mama and the soldiers leave.

Peter and Mama worry that the soldiers are listening even after they have left the house. To keep up the pretense a funeral, Peter picks a random psalm from the Bible and reads it aloud. It is about the Lord reuniting the people of Israel and healing their wounds. Everyone listens solemnly. After a few minutes, Peter closes the Bible and tells everyone it is time to leave.


The title of Number the Stars comes from Psalm 147:4, which Peter reads aloud in this chapter. In the psalm, God can number the stars one by one—which shows that he knows everything. The psalm is intended to comfort people in times of trouble by showing them that God is always watching and they are not alone. The psalm also describes how God reunited the people of Israel—that is, the Jews—after they were persecuted and helped them to rebuild. This parallels the way that the Jewish survivors of the Holocaust had to rebuild their lives after World War II.