Number the Stars by Lois Lowry: This book took me through a gamut of emotions as I read it. The reason I picked it up was because my daughter had to read it at school, and I have always tried to read the books they are reading (as part of required reading at school or otherwise, an exception – books like the Wimpy Kid series) as much as possible.
Lowry manages to use language simple enough for those in the age of the protagonist to read and understand the story while conveying so much more meaning. The poignant beauty and powerful impact of the story is actually enhanced by the simplicity of the language. Through Annemarie and Ellen, and their friends and family, as well as the events that happen to them during the Nazi occupation of Denmark in 1943, Lowry approaches the holocaust in a manner suitable to the age range it is written for (elementary school and early middle school).
The interactions between the friends, as well as between Annemarie/Ellen and Kristi (Annemarie’s younger sister), shows the sweetness of innocence that persists even in the evil that is war. And makes one smile and gives hope to the reader in that sweetness.
Ellen cupped one hand over her eyes and looked across the water at the misty shoreline that was another country. “It’s not so very far,” she said.
“Maybe,” Annemarie suggested, “standing over there are two girls just our age, looking across and saying, ‘That’s Denmark!'”
Reading this as an adult did make me see it differently from how my then 10 year old daughter viewed it, but there was one thing in common for both of us – we loved the book and were inspired, were hopeful, had a tear or two in our eyes with smiles in between as well, and awed by basic human decency that shines through in this book. The ordinary person is the superhero here and by showing us that, and showing how everyone (including little Annemarie) face their fears and face the evil that is war to be human(e), Lowry teaches a powerful lesson – that each of us (and together, even more so) can be a hero/stand up for what is right. I also learned so many amazing facts about the Danish Resistance and its everyday heroes along with facts about the holocaust itself.
One message that Lowry writes about in the afterword – mentioned as part of a letter from Kim Malthe-Bruun(a member of the Danish Resistance who was executed by the Nazis) to his mother:
…and I want you all to remember—that you must not dream yourselves back to the times before the war, but the dream for you all, young and old, must be to create an ideal of human decency, and not a narrow-minded and prejudiced one. That is the great gift our country hungers for, something every little peasant boy can look forward to, and with pleasure feel he is a part of—something he can work and fight for.
This book is a must read and one you can read in a matter of a couple of hours or lesser (like I did earlier today when I was completing this post)!!
This goes towards ABC Wednesday‘s round 22 – letter N (my theme for ABC Wednesday’s Round 22 as you might have already guessed, is children’s books – I will pick one popular (and sometimes the not so popular/the unknown) book – classic/modern/old/new… – and write about it – be it a backstory or facts or something else completely).
2020 update: Check out this article about a 2017 interview with Lois Lowry regarding the true story behind Number the Stars.
And for Within Books for the A to Z Challenge, here is something I wrote earlier on my blog, reusing it here for this post: Found Poetry from within the pages of ‘Number the Stars’. You can read more about the how and why of this poem in my previous post.
From Chapter 17 of the book ‘Number the Stars’ by Lois Lowry
When Freedom Gleamed
Churchbells rang, people wept
In every window, eyes bright
Flowers on a numbered ground
A memory, discolored, but still with hope
Hope – tended and polished,
Brought music to sound,
People as neighbors, as friends
Signing off on Day 16/letter N on #AtoZChallenge and #UltimateBlogChallenge for April 2018.