Number the Stars
By Lois Lowry
After we took a seat in the Teen Fiction tent at the National Book festival, we didn't move for 3 hours. Lois Lowry was on deck for the afternoon, and I was anxious to hear how this author got her ideas and how she arranged her writing life. She told us that she worked alone, with little if any feedback about her work, until it was complete. She explained that she was happy to tell any story that had meaning to her,whether it was science fiction, realistic fiction or historical fiction. The stories always started when she asked herself, "What if...?" During the Q&A portion of her talk, she was asked,"Which novel do you think is your greatest accomplishment?" She responded, " My greatest accomplishment is not one of my novels, but my children."
I first read Lowry in the early 90's when the book The Giver was published. It is an award winning science fiction novel used regularly in middle schools. Lois Lowry was at the festival promoting the novel Son, which is the story of the baby Gabe from the Giver. If I had to recommend one of her novels, I would suggest starting with Number the Stars. This is probably because my favorite genre is historical fiction. Even so, this is one story of hope that we all should know about.
Number the Stars is a story of the western front of WWII as told by a 10 year old girl. It recounts the true events surrounding the Danish Resistance efforts to smuggle almost the entire Jewish population out of their country before they could be herded onto the trains that would take them east to the concentration camps. Like many tales of history told through the eyes of a child, the actions are boiled down to the simplest elements. Innocence shows the way as we are reminded of the terror of war. The heroic actions of this nation remind us all that pride and decency can't be stamped out if hope is still alive.
There are many novels for both children and adults that focus on this period in our world's history. This story of hope can be an easier way to begin telling our young readers about these events. The horror of the time is made clear, but it is balanced by the determination of a free people. What are your favorite books about this time in history?