Challenges / Children and YA / Classic Literature / Highly Recommended / Historical Fiction

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

starsI always love reading Newbery award winners, and Lois Lowry has written many great books for children, including The Giver. So this book has been on my TBR list for a while.

Considering my family’s history, learning more about the Holocaust is important to me. So many books have been written on the subject, but each one is a different slice of a story that is otherwise too big to comprehend. This book is small, but powerful. It tells the story of Annemarie Johansen, a young girl in Denmark in 1943. Her closest friend is Jewish but they have no real understanding of the danger that Jews are facing under the Nazi occupation. They know just enough to be scared of the soldiers that patrol their streets.

In this mostly factual story, the Jews of Copenhagen are alerted by a rabbi that they are about to be rounded up by the Nazis. Annemarie’s family – and the Resistance – steps in to help Ellen and her family.

I think this book could be read and appreciated by children in the 4th-6th grade range. It’s dark, of course, but not violent or graphic. It’s terrifying mainly because of what we know about the Holocaust, not what’s in this book.

It’s a moving book about friendship and being brave when you need to. In a particularly dramatic scene, Annemarie comes to realize that sometimes we are safest when we don’t know everything. At the same time, growing up means learning about the horrible things around us.

The more I learn about the Holocaust, the more I come to realize how many countries around the world were affected by Nazi occupation. Just like in The Book Thief, it’s not enough to think only of how Jews were impacted, even if they were often at greatest risk. Visiting Normandy this summer was eye-opening as well. We saw a country still celebrating its liberation from the Nazis 70 years later – which at the same time made me realize that 70 years isn’t very long ago.

There are many days where I don’t like the world around me, but I have yet to live in a time where my country is occupied by another, or where I have to walk down the streets in fear. And that’s why we read, to understand what others have gone through.

This is an excellent book, a simple story with great attention paid to historical detail. It’s a children’s book but I would recommend it to anyone.

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