Hannah Halloran’s Letter-Essay #3: Number the Stars

I highly recommend reading Number the Stars by Lois Lowry if you are looking for a suspenseful easy read. It is an 158-page historical fiction book. Number the Stars was published in 1989. Lois Lowry has written about 50 books in her writing career and has won two Newbery Medals! She was born in Honolulu, Hawaii and is currently 80 years old. Her newest book is Gooney Bird Greene and was published in 2016.

Number the Stars has won about three awards including John Newbery Award, the Dorothy Canfield Children’s Book Award, and the National Jewish Book Award for Children’s Literature. This story shows great examples of strong relationships and bravery. For example when Annemarie, Ellen, and Kirsti had to face the Nazi soldiers on their way home from school. Annemarie and Ellen have a very strong relationship! Even though Annemarie and Ellen end up far away, their strong bond will never fade.

This novel takes place during the Holocaust (the early 1940s) in Copenhagen, Denmark and shows the journey of the Rosen and Johansen family. There are German soldiers on almost every street corner! The Rosen family happens to be Jewish and are relying on the Johansens to keep them safe. Annemarie Johansen and Ellen Rosen are best friends and it almost seems like this crisis will drive them apart.

Mrs. Johansen takes Ellen, Annemarie, and Annemarie’s little sister Kirsti down to their Uncle Henrik’s house to try to help the Rosens escape to Sweden for freedom. Annemarie has to help keep her friend Ellen and her family safe during this tough time. What will Annemarie do to keep her best friend safe and will she ever see her again?

The most surprising part of the story was when the soldiers came to the Johansen’s house while they were protecting Ellen. The text reads, “It was hours later, but still dark when she was awakened abruptly by the pounding on the apartment door…..Papa opened the front door to the soldiers….”I understand you are a friend of your neighbors the Rosens, Mrs. Johansens,” the soldier said angrily. “Sophy Rosen is my friend, that is true,” Mama said quietly. “Please, could you speak more softly? My children are sleeping.” “Then you will be so kind as to tell me where the Rosens are.” (p. 43-44) This part of the text most surprising because Ellen was so brave to act as Annemarie’s older dead older sibling Lise. Ellen stood with pride and announced “I am Lise, Lise Johansen.(p. 47)”  Ellen ended up fooling the soldiers! This showed many acts of bravery from the all of the characters.

I didn’t get why the author didn’t add equal parts of Annemarie and Ellen in most suspenseful scenes. This would have helped me get a better perspective from two different families. For example when the soldiers made an unwanted visit to the Johansen’s house the author added: “Then Annemarie, watching in panic, saw her father move swiftly to the small bookcase and take out a book. (p.47)” The author didn’t provide any information how Ellen felt when the soldiers grabbed her hair or when they were suspicious of her being a member of the family. This would have helped me understand her point of view and characteristics better.

Finally, the most interesting passage I found in the story was when the three girls met the soldiers at the corner on their way home from school. The text reads: “Halte! The soldier ordered in a stern voice…. Behind her, Ellen also slowed and stopped….Annemarie started up. There were two of them. That meant two helmets, two sets of cold eyes glaring at her, and four tall shiny boots planted firmly on the sidewalk, blocking her path to home…. Ellen was motionless on the sidewalk, a few yards behind her…. He prodded the corner of her backpack with the stock of the rifle. Annemarie trembled. “What is in here?” He asked loudly…. “Schoolbooks she answered truthfully. “Are you a good student?” The soldier asked. He seemed to be snickering.


“What is your name?”

“Annemarie Johansen.”… He was looking beyond her, at Ellen who hadn’t moved…. Kristi appeared there suddenly, scowling at everyone…. The soldier reached down and stroked her little sister’s short, tangled curls…. But Kirsti reached up and pushed the soldier’s hand away. “Don’t,” she said loudly. Both of the soldiers began to laugh.(p. 2-4)”

This was one of my favorite passages because it shows the strong relationship between the characters. It emphasized their unique characteristics and personalities. Number the Stars is a very creative and suspenseful story. It will always be one of my favorite books. It was a great re-read! I rate Number the Stars a 9 out of 10 and highly recommend reading it.


Hannah Halloran

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2 thoughts on “Hannah Halloran’s Letter-Essay #3: Number the Stars

  1. As I say to nearly everyone who has read and loved this book, please read Jerry Spinelli’s “Milkweed.” Nicely done, Hannah.

  2. I really liked how you asked why there weren’t almost any parts in Ellen’s perspective because everything is ten times more scary in her mind because she’s jewish. Another thing I liked was how you described the setting they were in!

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