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Number the Stars    by Lois Lowry order for
Number the Stars
by Lois Lowry
Order:  USA  Can
Yearling, 1990 (1989)
Softcover, Paperback, Audio, CD

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* *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

The whole world had changed, including Denmark. In 1940, this small nation surrendered to the Germans, to avoid total destruction at the hands of the powerful German forces. In an Afterword, the author writes: 'It is true that in August 1943, the Danes sank their own entire navy in Copenhagen harbor as the Germans approached to take over the ships for their own use.' Noted Newbery Medal award winner Lois Lowry dedicated Number The Stars to Annelise Platt, who told the author of her childhood in occupied Copenhagen. It is from Platt's recollections that Lowry created ten-year old heroine Annemarie Johansen, whose best friend was a Jewish girl named Ellen Rosen. In 1943, the Rosen and Johansen families lived in the same apartment building in Copenhagen.

It was a time of curfews and scarcity, the loud pounding of Nazi boots marching the streets, and threatening guards stopping anyone the soldiers chose to question. Jewish shops were closed, and Danish Jews arrested for relocation - a word which bore a heavy, hidden meaning. The Rosens were on the list for relocation when the Johansen family chose to take Ellen Rosen in as one of their own children. A loud pounding at the Johansen door alerted those within that it was the Germans. They were looking for the Rosen family, waking the Johansen children for questioning - Annemarie and her younger sister, five-year old Kirsti. Ellen was introduced to the soldiers as Johansen's daughter Lise. (Lise had died at eighteen in an accident a few weeks before her marriage to Peter Nielsen.) Annemarie notices that Peter does not come around as often, and when he does, there's something secretive about him. A preoccupied Peter passes off his absences by saying 'his work keeps him busy and takes him all over'. At the time, the Danish Resistance was busy, including the Johansen uncle who owned a fishing boat.

The suspense increases as Annemarie musters her courage and volunteers to deliver a package pertinent to the survival of Jewish families. The ten-year old faces the risk of encountering German soldiers en route to her destination. Number The Stars is an intense, compelling, and unforgettable read from Lois Lowry, author of internationally-acclaimed books (including The Giver and The Messenger), all of which touch the heart, mind, and soul. The story of the evacuation of Jews from Nazi-held Denmark to Sweden is one of courage and fortitude, and Number The Stars is a recommended read.

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