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Book cover of Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
HMH Books for Young Readers: New York, 2011; originally published in 1989.

Number the Stars is about Annemarie Johansen, a Christian girl living in Denmark during World War II. She is best friends with Ellen Rosen, a Jewish girl. When the Nazis decide to “relocate” Denmark’s Jews, Annemarie and her family hide Ellen to keep her safe. Later, Annemarie helps get Ellen’s family and other Jews across the sea to Sweden, a country that was Nazi-free. At the end of the book, Annemarie has to summon all her bravery to make a trip on her own that will decide the fate of the Jews her family was trying to save.

Bravery is an important theme in the book. Annemarie is put in countless situations where she has to be brave or the consequences would be terrible. I admire her very much for this. I also try to be brave. It is a quality I would like to have. However, I don’t feel brave or think that I am. There are silly things that scare me; for example, I get scared if there is an insect nearby. I know this is silly, but still, I am not brave when I see a bug. In the book, Annemarie also says that she does not feel brave. However, when it is necessary to be brave, she is. Fortunately, I have never been in anything close to the terrifying situations Annemarie faced. Still, the book inspired me to think that if someone could be brave in such terrible and scary situations, then maybe I could be brave, too, in the silly situations that I find myself in. All I have to do is try.

Another part of the book that spoke to me was a scene involving the Star of David necklace Ellen always wore. In the scene, Ellen has to quickly remove the necklace before the Nazis march into the room. Since there is not enough time to undo the clasp, Annemarie rips the necklace off.

I identify with Ellen because I also have a Star of David necklace. My necklace was given to me by my great-grandmother who survived the Holocaust. At the time of the Holocaust, being identified as Jewish through wearing such a necklace could endanger your life. Still, even though my great-grandmother went through the Holocaust, she wanted to give the necklace to me. I think that this is because she thought wearing such a necklace was important. The necklace is a symbol of my culture, and of Ellen’s. And that culture is part of our identity no matter what happens. At the end of the book, Annemarie fixes Ellen’s necklace to give back to her one day. She knows that, like my great-grandmother, Ellen would still want to wear her Star of David necklace.

My great-grandmother was from Lithuania. When the Nazis invaded, she was put in a ghetto. Before the ghetto was liquidated, she and my great-grandfather escaped. Her family friends hid her afterward. She later moved to Israel and then America, where I was born. Because of her experience and the experience of my other great-grandparents in the Holocaust, this book was especially meaningful to me. It is also important to me to remember the Holocaust so that something like it never happens again.

The Holocaust was a horrible tragedy and therefore reading about it is often very difficult. But, as far as Holocaust books go, this one was less dismal. And so it is a good book to read if you haven’t learned much about the topic. Even if you do know a lot about it, I recommend reading this book, because it focuses on good people who helped the Jews. In Denmark, people were very much against the Nazis. The book demonstrates how people helped the Jews escape and then took care of their possessions after they left. This book illustrates the kindness of the non-Jews in Denmark. We can learn from them that, even in the face of such danger, it is still worth it to help and be kind to others—a lesson that can’t be discussed too much.

I read this book a few years ago, and I recently read it again. Both times I enjoyed it a lot and learned a lot. This book is a meaningful story about an inspiring, brave girl who did what was right, and it was even funny at times. If you have never read Number the Stars, I strongly recommend reading it.

Maya Viswanathan reviewer of Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
Maya Viswanathan, 13
Champaign, IL

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