Friday, March 27, 2009

Number the Stars - Lois Lowry (audio)

Yes, I know. We have been on quite a Lois Lowry kick here lately, primarily because my kids can't get enough. The extra bonus for me with this novel is that it qualifies for my WWII Reading Challenge, which has been unintentionally ignored for the last couple of months.

"Number the Stars", a Newberry winner, is a different type of Lois Lowry story than we have been reading. While "Gossamer", "The Giver" and "Messenger" were fantasy-ish, this novel is good, old-fashioned historical fiction. The setting is Nazi-occupied Denmark. Our protagonist, Anne Marie Johansen, is a normal 10 year old who desires to win the running race at her school, is often irritated with her chatty little sister, and shares everything with her best friend Ellen. She is also scared of the soldiers that stand on the street corners and try to intimidate them, and longs for life's luxuries long since gone...butter, meat, sweets. When the Germans turn up the heat and start to "relocate" the Danish Jews, Anne Marie's family and friends join the resistance in order to save Anne Marie's best friend, Ellen and her family. Anne Marie quickly learns what it means to be brave, and to defend the freedom and lives of those you love.

I know I will sound like a broken record, but Lowry's stories are something very special. They have a touch of magic, a touch of whimsy, and a touch of unflinching stone-cold reality. Lowry isn't afraid to unveil a bit of brutality, death or prejudice, which makes us all a little bit afraid of what is going to happen in each chapter of her books. At one point in this story, while we were listening in the car, I heard my 11 year old whisper to my 9 year old, "I'm scared". Her stories are so multi-layered, that if you take the time to slowly digest the words, and allow yourself to sort of nestle down in them, you find things you didn't know were there at first blush. Here is what Lowry's #1 fan has to say!
Ryan's take: This book really showed me the cruelty of the Nazis in WWII, especially from a kid's perspective, and made me feel scared and sad. But I still liked it! Mom says this type of story is called historical fiction, and I like it because you can learn about the past in a more interesting way than reading my Social Studies book. My favorite part of the story is when the members of the resistance fool the Nazis when they try to smuggle the Jews out of Denmark.


Melody said...

Hmm...I don't think I've heard of this title, but I'm going to add it onto my wishlist anyway because of Lois Lowry. What's more, I'm always looking out for more war-related stories.

I'm glad you and your children enjoyed it as well!

Gavin said...

Great review. I agree, Lowry does have a touch of magic. I can see, with a 9 and 11 year old that "herding cats" is a very appropriate phrase. That's what it feels like with some of my students!

Carrie K. said...

This was the first Lowry book Natalie and I read. I assigned it to Natalie for school, and after she finished it, she handed it to me and said I had to read it. We both loved it, and I'll be reading it aloud next year when we get to our World War II study.

Bellezza said...

I loved this book. I used to read it quite frequently to my class, but then some parents got upset at the exposure to WWII themes for their little ones. I can understand that; there's plenty of time for third graders to learn of Hitler in later years. I found this book quite moving, as well as engaging. I still remember the suspense of wondering if the dogs will discover them.

By the way, congratulations on all your awards. They are well deserved, especially as you are so involved in the blogging community.

Sandy Nawrot said...

Melody - It seems that anything by Lois Lowry is excellent, based on the 4 1/2 of them that we've read!

Gavin - haha! I feel like this particularly on field trips. I wish I could put them all on a leash.

Carrie - I have slowly introduced the WWII thing to the kids. It is a pretty dark thing for them to get their heads around, but very important I think. My husband's parents don't live too far from Auschwitz, and one day we will take them.

Bellezza - thanks! My youngest is a 3rd grader, and he has a healthy interest in WWII, probably because my husband is Polish and was there until he was 19. I am going at it slowly. We've watched some tamer documentaries, studied and did a report on a Polish saint that died in the camps, and generally extract lessons of tolerance and survival.

Dawn - She is Too Fond of Books said...

This title sounded familiar, and I just asked my daughter about it. She said, "we own it, I read it in 4th or 5th grade."

I'm now moving it to my shelf to read for the War Thru the Generations WWII challenge.

Thanks for reminding me about this book; the audio sounds fantastic, too!

Melissa said...

This is one of those books I remember loving when I was a kid. I have been slowly collecting the ones I didn't keep (Witch of Blackbird Pond, and the Time Quartet). I have a copy of this one, but still haven't re-read it.

I'm glad to hear you liked it though. I'm always afraid those childhood favs won't be as good when I read them as an adult.

Anna said...

Well said, Ryan! This sounds like a book The Girl would enjoy for the challenge. She needs a couple more to complete it anyway. Thanks for the great review, which we've posted here at War Through the Generations. (You've probably already seen it there, but I'm so behind these days. I should be back online completely in the next week or so...fingers crossed!)

Diary of an Eccentric

Unknown said...

Best book ever!! we read it in class..we just finished it omg i loved it!!

gabby' said...

i am 11 yrs old and i am reding this book im on chapter 9 and 10 but its awesome