1990: Number the Stars (the secret Danish rebellion)

VERDICT: Treasure

Sally’s Rating: 3/5

In Lois Lowry’s Number the Stars, ten-year-old Annemarie’s quiet life is interrupted by Nazi soldiers marching through town and ongoing food shortages from the war. When the Jews of Denmark begin to be relocated elsewhere by the Nazis, her best friend moves in with her and must pretend to be her sister. As the tale unfolds, Annemarie is asked to go on a dangerous mission to save Ellen’s life as she helps with the secret effort to smuggle the entire Jewish population out of Denmark.

The narrative is rather deceiving; while the plot sounded interesting and full of excitement and secret meetings, the reality of it was much milder. There is not much action in the story, and even the climax fails to get the heart racing, as it is mainly about Annemarie learning about how the war is affecting others around her. Since the story starts in the middle of the war, the reader doesn’t get to experience how the war has affected her and her family when compared to beforehand. As a result, much of the book is exposition – which is great for children to learn about history, but a bit boring for adults to read about.

Annemarie is not the most sensational narrator. She is slow to pick up on what is going on around her, and oftentimes, she needs others to tell her exactly what is going on. Additionally, her younger sister is a bit obnoxious – intentionally written that way by the author – and their interactions were rather tedious to follow.

Many times throughout the book, it felt like things were being spelled out too much when a little bit of subtlety would have worked better. Annemarie doesn’t know what is going on, so her mother and father give her stilted lessons that don’t always flow with the narrative. Little moments like this took me out the story and made it tough to keep reading on. This book is definitely targeted towards the younger crowd, and when reading it as an adult, it loses much of its impact.

While I remember enjoying this book when I read it in fourth grade, I think much of my interest was because my class was learning about World War II for the first time. And, as a result, the bit with the handkerchief and the dogs has stayed with me throughout my adult life. Number the Stars is a great introductory point for learning about the Holocaust and a fairly light tale, despite its context. It’s just not the most exciting read.

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