Number the Stars
Although normally historic fiction rarely interests me, the holocaust is one time in history that I do find intriguing. Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry, is the amazing story of a Annemarie Johansen and her best friend Ellen Rosen, two ten-year-old girls who lived in holocaust times. Life in Copenhagen is just not what it used to be, even a ten-year-old can figure that much out. Gone are the times of carefree fun and laughter, now they cannot even run joyously through the streets without being reprimanded by the Nazi soldiers that now mark every street corner.
The Johansen family is Polish, so they are not being directly prosecuted as the Rosen family, being Jewish, is; however, being strongly against the war, and trying to protect their Jewish friends leaves them almost just as vulnerable. Annemarie’s family had been active in the top secret revolt against the Nazis, her older sister, who was much more aggressive in this revolt, had lost her life fighting for what she believed was right. As if life weren’t hard enough already, the list of all the Jewish families currently residing in Copenhagen was stolen from the Synagogue! For the Rosen family, this means that drastic measures must be taken! They must flee the only home they have ever known in order to save their own lives. Ellen’s parents are immediately taken into hiding, but Ellen is to stay with the Johansens. It’s a close call when a group of Nazi soldiers make a visit to the Johansen home that very night looking for any trace of the Rosens who had evacuated just in time! The only thing that causes them to spare Ellen are the baby pictures that the Johansen family shows the soldiers. Amazingly, Annemarie’s deceased older sister had dark hair, much like Ellen’s, and that picture was enough to convince them that Ellen was in fact a part of the Johansen family.
After that scare, the family is not up for taking any more chances! Mrs. Johansen takes her two daughters and Ellen to her brothers place in the country, where they are less likely to encounter the Nazi forces, while Mr. Johansen stays behind, as not to look overly conspicuous.
While in the country, Ellen is reunited with her parents, and the three of them, along with several other Jewish, families are smuggled across the river to Sweden, where they are safe from the Nazi efforts!
This heroic tale is not only education in the lines of history, although it does give us great input into what the holocaust was like, but it also teaches us to be grateful for the amazing nation that we live in! The freedom we have here in America is often taken so for granted---especially by children who have never known or even heard any different. After reading this, a greater appreciation for the good ol’ USA is definitely in order. - KH