This is by far one of the best children’s books I’ve ever read. Ever.
I hope you’re into kid-lit, because well. This is pretty much a masterpiece of children’s fiction.
Let me explain. *muhahahaha*
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Ten-year-old Annemarie Johansen and her best friend Ellen Rosen often think of life before the war. It’s now 1943 and their life in Copenhagen is filled with school, food shortages, and the Nazi soldiers marching through town. When the Jews of Denmark are “relocated,” Ellen moves in with the Johansens and pretends to be one of the family. Soon Annemarie is asked to go on a dangerous mission to save Ellen’s life.
“How brave are you, little Annemarie?”
Number the Stars is set in 1940s Denmark—a perspective of World War II I hardly ever hear or read about. And let me say, it was incredible.
To think of what the Danes would do to oppose Nazi occupation is inspiring. They destroyed their own navy to keep it out of enemy hands, they saved countless Jews by helping them across to neutral Sweden, and they would consistently oppose the occupying forces through their Danish Resistance, not flinching to sacrifice their own lives if it was in their efforts.
There should be more books about this brave country. But I wouldn’t even have discovered it if it wasn’t for Lois Lowry’s Number the Stars.
I really had no idea what the Danes did in World War II. I had so many misconceptions about them; but reading Number the Stars and researching Denmark later brought out the beautiful truth.
Moving from Denmark, though, to Number the Stars, I must say, it was nothing like The Giver. (One of Lowry’s other works.)
Starting Number the Stars, I didn’t expect much. I had been disappointed with the small effect The Giver had on me (which I delve into more in this post) because I read it way too late, so I thought the same thing would happen with Number the Stars. I’ve never been more happy to be wrong. I found it moving and subtly powerful; it definitely impacted me.
Is that because of the different perspective of WWII? Possibly. Is it because my expectations were lower? Maybe. But no matter how I cut it, it is still one of the best children’s books I’ve ever read.
I know I’ve said that before, but it’s true.
As for writing, Lowry shines again in Number the Stars. Her precision of language, softly moving prose, natural and direct dialogue, and attainable, understandable writing style was beautiful. It had a certain gravity to it—it’s about the Holocaust, after all—which I found moving and impactful.
“Why are you running?”
The worldbuilding (which, I’ll admit, I’ve never paid much attention to in children’s literature) felt effortless. With hardly any description at all, I felt transported into a fully-realized World War II Denmark. It was so subtle I almost didn’t catch it; Lowry’s transitioning from our world to Annemarie’s was that smooth.
The characterization was short and sweet. It’s hard to balance character complexity in a children’s novel: making the character complex enough to be distinct and believable and feel real (which Louisa May Alcott was a master at in Little Women), but also simple enough to be easily readable. Lowry did an effective job in Number the Stars. We see Annemarie struggle with her own expectations of herself and her ideas about who she should be. There was a gentle bravery to her that was moving to read.
The plot was simple but executed well. It caught my attention and kept it. This was a required read, but I found myself looking forward to reading more of it every day.
If you’re not into children’s literature, that’s okay. I just wouldn’t steer you toward Number the Stars. If you’re totally down for a little bit of middle-grade or children’s fiction, though, I wouldn’t hesitate to pick up Number the Stars. I was almost breathless when I finished it—it was that moving. Don’t expect twists and turns, though; that’s not what it is written for. It is a beautiful, gentle story about courage, conviction, and compassion; standing up for what you believe in and what you know is right; taking care of others in hard times.
That’s a message I could hear more of.
Is it okay for me to read?
Language • • • • •
Violence • • • • •
Parents relate a sister’s death to a child.
Sensuality • • • • •
Substances • • • • •
For more about my content ratings and what they mean, click here.