Number the Stars was one of our read-alouds for our World War II studies. Choosing a read-aloud for World War II was no small feat for me; this time period is one of my own particular areas of interest, so I know of a lot of books that would easily fit the bill. However, I consider this particular novel by Lois Lowry to be a “gateway novel” for Holocaust literature, mostly because nothing terrible happens in the story, so it isn’t terribly shocking or emotionally overwhelming. (All of the extreme tragedy happens off stage–before the story begins.) Also, the fact that there is a Boomerang available for this title was a deciding factor for me; having copywork/dictation passages picked out for me, as well as points for discussion, is a necessity.
I read this story a couple of decades ago I guess, but I remembered it as a simple story about heroic people, and a story in which I learned something new: I did not know that Swedish scientists developed a method by which Nazi tracker dogs’ senses of smell could be disabled so they could not find the runaway Jews they were searching for. That’s the one detail I remember about the story, so it obviously stuck with me. Otherwise, it’s a simple story of friendship between Annemarie, a Danish girl, and her friend Ellen, who happens to be a Jew. The heroism of the Danish people is exemplified by Annemarie’s family when they take Ellen’s family out of Copenhagen to the seacoast where they can safely escape to Sweden. The chapters are short and the dialogue is plentiful, making this an ideal read-aloud. It’s not a complex story, but it’s one I give a Highly Recommended as the perfect starter story to a fascinating, exhilarating, and horrifying time in history. Lowry is a master storyteller, of course, and her personal note at the end detailing which parts of the story are true and which are fictional made the story even more heart-wrenching for my tender, middle-aged heart. This one won a well-deserved Newbery Medal in 1990.