Number the Stars

Here is my first guest blogger! Dianne McBride is a dear friend of mine and a fellow teacher of middle school students. She is reviewing a book that earned a Newberry Metal in 1990. It’s a book which has been a go-to book for both of us over the years because it is so well-written and engaging. You may know the author of this book, Lois Lowry, for another of her books, The Giver, recently made more popular by the movie.

Number the Stars
by Lois Lowry
Reviewed by Dianne McBride

Number the Stars is one of my favorite books to read with a class or reading group. Number the Stars is that unicorn of a book that all teachers of reluctant readers dream about; a high interest lower-reading-level novel. It has a beginning 5th grade reading level so it makes it reachable for my struggling readers (with some scaffolding) but it’s such a gripping story that even middle school boys love it! I love to hear my students who usually hate to read complain because class is over and they have to wait until tomorrow to see what happens next.

In Number the Stars we are introduced to Annemarie Johansen, a young Danish girl living in Copenhagen during the Nazi occupation of Denmark. She lives in a small apartment with her younger sister and parents. Her best friend, Ellen, lives with her family in a nearby apartment.

Ellen and her family are Jewish; a dangerous thing to be during the Nazi occupation. Every Danish citizen walks a careful line during this time and deals with the various hardships imposed by the Nazis (curfew, rationing, and armed soldiers on street corners, to name a few) but Jews are in even more danger and most of the Danes know it. When the Danes receive news that all of the Jews in Denmark are about to be “relocated,” the entire country, including Annemarie and her family, takes action to save their friends and neighbors.

This book may contain some triggers for young students who have been through dangerous or difficult situations, especially dealing with soldiers. I had some students who came emigrated from war-torn countries who became uncomfortable during certain chapters of this book.

While this is not a completely true story, Lois Lowry based this story on stories from her best friend as a child and true events from history. This book is a great companion piece for students who are studying World War II as this helps make those events real and personal for students. Despite a female protagonist, even boys identify with the themes and storyline of this book as Annemarie must quickly grow up before our eyes and learns about courage, the true meaning of family, and discovers painful secrets about her past. It’s one book I recommend everyone, both children and adults, read at least once.