Review: Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

The plight of the Jews during World War II was horrific. I’ve walked through the remains of a concentration camp, and the experience was heart-wrenching.

How do you teach your children about such atrocities in a sensitive manner? Obviously young children don’t yet need to know the gruesome details of the concentration camps. They can, however, start learning about the war and it’s impact on people and families. Lois Lowry’s Newberry Award winner Number the Stars gives younger readers a taste of what happened without frightening them with graphic details.

Number the Stars

Set in Denmark at the beginning of the war, children quickly connect with Annemarie and Ellen, two typical young friends. The German soldiers occupying their country cause uncertainty (but not great fear) in the girls. Until they start “relocating” Jews, that is.

Jewish Ellen and her family are suddenly in danger. Their friends, Annemarie and her family, step in to help them get to safety. Will they make it? Or will both families get caught?

Enjoying a story is important, but as adults we know there often needs to be more to it. How realistic is the story? How does it compare to what really happened? Does it help us understand history better?

Ms. Lowry shares in the “Afterword” which parts of her story were true bits of history and which were fictional. However, she also shares that the book was based on the real-life accounts of her good friend, so even the fiction is very realistic.

Number the Stars is a great supplement to any curriculum covering WWII. The target age is 9-12, and it addresses the Nazi oppression of the Jews in a manner sensitive to the reader’s age while still communicating the fear – and bravery – of the Danish people.

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