|Lois Lowry: Number the Stars|
Leaf (Paperback), ISBN 0440227534
Unlike most Holocaust children's literature, which takes place in Eastern Europe, Lois Lowry's Number the Stars takes place at the fringe of the Nazi occupation, in a small kingdom called Denmark. Rather than fight against the Nazis and lose, Denmark's King Christian concedes peaceably to Nazi occupation. However, in his infinite wisdom, the king first blows up all military equipment of any possible use to the occupiers.
On the outside Denmark appears submissive, on the inside the nation resists. When word spreads in 1943 that Hitler plans to detain Danish Jews and transport them to death camps, the people of Denmark band together. Although primarily a fictional compilation of many factual events, Number the Stars chronicles one family's attempt to save their friends from persecution and death.
Annemarie Johannesen (a Christian) and her best friend Ellen Rosen (a Jew) stand together at the center of this captivating story. Through Annemarie's inquiring eyes, we see the friendship, the shortage of food, the fear and the constant threat of harm by Nazi soldiers stationed at every street corner in Copenhagen. Within the heart of this story lie two compelling mysteries: one concerning the death of Annemarie's older sister Lise and the late night activities of Lise's former fiancÚ, Peter Neilsen, and the other, whether the Rosens will survive.
Every member of Annemarie's family (including her Uncle Henrik, Peter and her ersatz Great Aunt Birta) plays a crucial role in assisting the Rosens to flee to safety in Sweden -- except for Annemarie and her little sister, Kirsti. Then, when an important part of the plan falls through, Annemarie must gather the courage and strength to face the Nazis and do her part to save her friend from a terrible fate.
Hitler's murder campaign caused the deaths of over six millions Jews by the end of World War II. As a result of true stories of courage similar to the one depicted in Lowry's Number the Stars, approximately 92 percent of Danish Jews survived the Nazi Holocaust. People like Kim Malthe-Bruun, upon whom Lowry based the character of Peter Neilsen really did exist and stood up with countless others to make a difference.
While other treatments of Holocaust children's literature often prove too disturbing and inspire melancholy, Number the Stars leaves the reader with a sense of hope for humanity. For those who lack background education, Number the Stars provides some distance to the horror, as well as a manageable first exposure to this difficult topic.
Lynne Marie Pisano
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