Readers Guide: Number the Stars (1)

Number the Stars

By Lois Lowry

Published by: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children

Copyright :1989

Written by: Lauren Zlotnick, Lana Iskandarani, Heidi Morein, Deborah Kimball


Number the Stars, is a Newbery Medal award winning fiction story, written by Lois Lowry. Set in Copenhagen, Denmark during 1943 when the Germans planned to “relocate” all of the Jews, life is anything but ordinary for ten year old Annemarie Johansen.  Told from her perspective, this story depicts the trials and tribulations of a young girl and her family, including hiding their neighbors and closest friends, Ellen and the Rosen’s from the Germans.

Background Information:

The story takes place in Denmark in 1943.  The German have invaded Denmark on April 9, 1940, and continued to  occupy it as the story begins in 1943. When the Germans invaded Denmark King Christian, who was the constitutional Monarch , agreed to surrender as long as they left the Jews in Denmark alone.  Approximately 8,000 Jews lived in Denmark at the time and most lived near Copenhagen

1.Journal Writing

Each student will keep a journal to record thoughts, questions or drawings about their daily reading. Students will create an additional journal entry – in pictures or in writing -through the eyes of (point of view) one of the characters in the story.

 For Discussion and Exploration

2. How would you feel if you were running down the street, and a soldier ordered you to Halte! How do you think Annemarie and Ellen felt? How was Kirsti’s reaction different from Annemarie’s and Ellen’s? Why do you think Kirsti’s reaction was different?

3. What Jewish traditions are discussed in the story? How does the Jewish Sabbath differ from the Christian Sabbath? What do they have in common?

What is Rosh Hashana?

Use an internet search to uncover special things to eat which might be considered symbols for Rosh Hashana, and explain how they signify (make meaning).

4. What is the significance of the necklace that Ellen wears? When the soldiers come to the Johansens’ apartment, why is Annemarie so concerned to have Ellen remove her necklace? What do you think would have happened to Ellen if Annemarie hadn’t pulled it off her neck?

5. At one point in the story, Annemarie remembers that in better times she and her family visited Tivoli Gardens.  Search online to find information about Tivoli Gardens, and create a travel brochure. Include its location on a map of Denmark, its relation to Copenhagen, times when it is open, and things to do when you visit there.

6. Author Lois Lowry chose to make many chapter titles into questions; what is the feeling that questions give to you as the reader? How do chapter titles help advance the story, or the reader’s anticipation? Would you change any of the titles and if so, how, and why?

Synthesis of Ideas and Creative Work:

7. Did the Nazis only target Jewish people? What other groups of people did they designate for stripping of their rights and property? How might you refute the Nazi stand on such ideas?

8. Compare and contrast the Underground Railroad vs. the Resistance in Denmark.

  • People cooperating to free others; who were they?
  • People being led to freedom; who were they? Why did they need help?
  • How did fleeing persons travel?

9. This map shows the region where the story takes place. This map includes a key with a scale. Can you trace their journey, get a sense of how far Mrs. Johansen, Annemarie, Ellen and Kirsti traveled? What does km mean? How many miles did they travel? How many km?

ED 608_Map

10. Can you envision an alternate ending? Example: What do you think the outcome of the story would have been if Annemarie did not get the handkerchief to Uncle Henrik in time? What do you think might have happened to the Rosens, Uncle Henrik and the others if the soldiers had not given the handkerchief back to Annemarie to deliver to Uncle Henrik? What do you think might have happened to Annemarie and her mother?

11.Choose a character – Ellen, or Kirsti or the uncle, for example – and write a scene from a chapter from this character’s point of view.

12. Create images you find arise from the book, and, working together, combine these into a mural which would invite a visual understanding of major story elements or scenes from the book.

13. Watch and write a reflection activity: Watch this video about the Holocaust liberation and write your reflection.


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