Excerpt from Number the Stars by Lois Lowry, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Number the Stars

by Lois Lowry

Number the Stars
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  • First Published:
    Apr 1989, 144 pages
    Feb 1998, 144 pages

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“Where’s Ellen?” Mrs. Rosen had a frightened look.

“Ellen’s in your apartment. She didn’t realize you were here,”

Annemarie explained. “Don’t worry. It wasn’t anything. It was the two soldiers who stand on Osterbrogade–you’ve seen them; you know the tall one with the long neck, the one who looks like a silly giraffe?” She told her mother and Mrs. Rosen of the incident, trying to make it sound humorous and unimportant. But their uneasy looks didn’t change.

“ I slapped his hand and shouted at him,” Kirsti announced importantly.

“No, she didn’t, Mama,” Annemarie reassured her mother. “She’s exaggerating, as she always does.”

Mrs. Johansen moved to the window and looked down to the street below. The Copenhagen neighborhood was quiet; it looked the same as always: people coming and going from the shops, children at play, the soldiers on the corner.

She spoke in a low voice to Ellen’s mother. “They must be edgy because of the latest Resistance incidents. Did you read in De Frie Danske about the bombings in Hillerod and Norrebro?”

Although she pretended to be absorbed in unpacking her schoolbooks, Annemarie listened, and she knew what her mother was referring to. De Frie Danske–The Free Danes__ was an illegal newspaper; Peter Neilson brought it to them occasionally, carefully folded and hidden among ordinary books and papers, and Mama always burned it after she and Papa had read it. But Annemarie heard mama and Papa talk, sometimes at night, about the news they received that way: news of sabotage against the Nazis, bombs hidden and exploded in the factories that produced war materials, and industrial railroad lines damaged so that goods couldn’t be transported.

And she knew what Resistance meant. Papa had explained, when she overheard the word and asked. The Resistance fighters where Danish people–no one knew who, because they were very secret–who were determined to bring harm to the Nazis however they could. They damaged the German trucks and cars, and bombed their factories. They were very brave. Sometimes they were caught and killed.

“I must go and speak to Ellen.” Mrs. Rosen said, moving toward the door. “you girls walk a different way to school. Promise me, Annemarie. And Ellen will promise, too.”

“We will, Mrs. Rosen. But what does it matter? There are German soldiers on every corner.”

“They will remember your faces,” Mrs. Rosen said, turning in the doorway to the hall. “It is important to be one of the crowd, always. Be one of many. Be sure that they never have reason to remember your face.” She diappeared into the hall and closed the door behind her.

“He’ll remember my face, Mama,” Kirsti announced happily, “because he said I look like his little girl. He said I was pretty.”

“If he has such a pretty little, why doesn’t he go back to her like a good father?” Mrs. Johansen murmured, stroking Kirsti’s cheek. “Why doesn’t he go back to his own country?”

“Mama, is there anything to eat?” Annemarie asked, hoping to take her mother’s mind away from the soldiers.

“Take some bread. And give a piece to your sister.”

“With butter?” Kirsti asked hopefully.

“No butter,” her mother replied. “You know that.”

Kirsti sighed as Annemarie went to the breadbox in the kitchen. “I wish I could have a cupcake,” she said. “A big yellow cupcake, with pink frosting.”

Her mother laughed. “For a little girl, you have a long memory,” she told Kirsti. “There hasn’t been any butter, or sugar for cupcakes, for a long time. A year, at least.”

Excerpted from Number the Stars by Lois Lowry Copyright © 1998 by Lois Lowry. Excerpted by permission of Laurel Leaf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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