Number the Stars

Introduction

Number the Stars (1989) is a work of historical fiction by American author Lois Lowry, about the escape of a Jewish family (the Rosens) from Copenhagen during World War II. The story centers on ten-year-old Annemarie Johansen, who lives with her family in Copenhagen in 1943. She becomes a part of the events related to the rescue of the Danish Jews, when thousands of Jews were helped to reach neutral ground in Sweden in order to avoid being relocated to concentration camps. She risked her life in order to help her best friend, Ellen Rosen, by pretending that Ellen is Annemarie's late older sister Lise, who had died earlier in the war. Lise had been killed by the Nazi military as a result of her work with the Danish Resistance, though her former fiancé Peter, based in part on Danish resistance member Kim Malthe-Bruun, continues to help them. The story's title is taken from a reference to Psalm 147:4, in which the writer relates that God has numbered all the stars and has named each one of them. It ties into the Star of David, worn by Ellen on her necklace, which is symbolic to Judaism.

The novel was awarded the Newbery Medal in 1990[1] as the previous year's "most distinguished contribution to American literature for children".[2] Lois Lowry traveled to Copenhagen to conduct research and interviews for the book. She took the photo of the girl used for the cover (shown in infobox). That cover was used on many editions of the book.[3]

Plot summary

Annemarie Johansen and her friend, Ellen Rosen, living in Copenhagen, Denmark, during World War II. Annemarie has a 5-year-old sister named Kirsti. There are Nazis on every street corner in Copenhagen. Butter, sugar, coffee, cigarettes and other goods are unavailable. Electricity and many other things have been rationed.

After an encounter with two German soldiers, Annemarie and Ellen are much more careful. Later on, it turns out that for unknown reasons the Germans are "relocating" Denmark's Jews. At the synagogue, the Nazis have taken the names and addresses of all the Jewish people in Copenhagen. Ellen and her family are Jewish. Ellen's parents have fled with Peter, the former fiancé of Annemarie's older sister, Lise, who died years ago. Ellen must stay with the Johansens, pretending to be Lise, even though she is half the age of the real Lise. Soldiers enter the Johansens' apartment at 4 in the morning, thinking that the Rosens are "Paying a visit" to the Johansens. Annemarie and Ellen wake up and Annemarie rips the Star of David necklace off Ellen's neck. If the soldiers saw it, they would have known Ellen was a Jew. The soldiers see Ellen's dark hair and become suspicious, because the Johansens have blond hair, and Ellen has brown hair. Luckily, Lise had brown hair as an infant. Mr. Johansen shows the Nazis a picture of baby Lise, and they leave.

Reception

Critical and popular reaction were positive. Kirkus Reviews said that "...like Annemarie, the reader is protected from the full implications of events--but will be caught up in the suspense and menace of several encounters with soldiers and in Annemarie's courageous run as courier on the night of the escape."[4]

On top of numerous awards the book has been one of the best-selling children's books of all time. According to Publishers Weekly, it was the 82nd best selling children's book of all time in the United States with sales above 2 million as of 2001.[5] Sales have remained solid, even years after publication.[6]

Film adaptation

In September 2017, actor Sean Astin announced that he had spent the last ten years attempting to get a film adaptation greenlit.

References
  1. ^ "Newbery Medal and Honor Books, 1922–present". American Library Association. Retrieved 2008-11-22. 
  2. ^ "The Newbery Medal". Powell's Books. Retrieved 2008-11-22. 
  3. ^ Lowry, Lois. "Lois Lowry Interview". Scholastic. Retrieved September 22, 2012. 
  4. ^ "NUMBER THE STARS by Lois Lowry". Kirkus Reviews. March 15, 1989. Retrieved January 3, 2017. 
  5. ^ Roback, Diane; Jason Britton (December 17, 2001). "All-Time Bestselling Children's Books". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved September 22, 2012. 
  6. ^ Silvey, Anita (October 1, 2008). "Has the Newbery Lost Its Way?". School Library Journal. Retrieved January 3, 2017. 
External links
  • Lois Lowry – Author
Awards
Preceded by Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices Newbery Medal recipient 1990 Succeeded by Maniac Magee

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