Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

"Number the Stars" by Lois Lowry-Fairy Tales and the Reading Life

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry is a beautiful book written in a simple elegant style. It was the Newberry Award winner in 1990 and is a young adult book that all ages will love. The plot centers on one families efforts to save a Jewish family from the nazis during their Occupation of Denmark in WWII. I do not like to say a huge amount about the plots of the books I write about as I hate spoilers in reviews. Amazon has a plot summery: "The evacuation of Jews from Nazi-held Denmark is one of the great untold stories of World War II. On September 29, 1943, word got out in Denmark that Jews were to be detained and then sent to the death camps. Within hours the Danish resistance, population and police arranged a small flotilla to take 7,000 Jews to Sweden. Lois Lowry fictionalizes a true-story account to bring this courageous tale to life. She brings the experience to life through the eyes of 10-year-old Annemarie Johannesen, whose family harbors her best friend, Ellen Rosen, on the eve of the round-up and helps smuggles Ellen's family out of the country."

I just want to talk about two things about the book that are related to The Reading Life. The ten year old lead character is not portrayed as a super reader or brilliant. She is just a regular kid living in some very tough times.

Here is a quote that to me tells us a lot about The Reading Life:
"The whole world changed. Only the fairy tales remained the same."

The stability in AnnaMarie's life comes from internalizing fairy tales. There is very much a very tale like quality in the book's treatment of King Christian X, The Danish king during WWII. This fairy tale like belief in the King gives the whole country strength to endure the horrors of the Nazi regime. We should not forget that Hans Christian Anderson came from Denmark.

The only book mentioned in "Number the Stars" is " Gone with the Wind" published in 1936, the movie came out in 1939 (a great year for movies). The book and movie are mythic accounts of a world of glory lost and regained in a period of great distress. It is a fairy tale like historical treatment of the the Civil War and the Antebellum period which shows a culture rising from the ashes. Not a real depiction of the Antebellum American south but a fairy tale version of it. This seems to reverberate in the minds of the books Danish Characters as reflecting their own hopes of a post war Denmark. Fairy tales can give us power. You only have to believe in a few.

I invite people to Google Einstein and fairy tales before they dismiss the internalization of fairy tale like stories as central to the Reading Life.
Number the Stars is tale of courage and a depiction of human kindness in the face of evil. I learned some very interesting things about the Danish's people efforts to help their Jewish citizens in WWII. This is very uplifting book.
I think this book might make a good family read along . It is exciting and kept my attention throughout.

I am looking forward to reading "The Giver" also by Lois Lowry. Both books are out in very well produced paperbacks. I have no reservations about endorsing this book to anyone who loves a good story.

Mel u
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Suko said...

After hearing about The Giver for a long time, I finally read and posted about it a few months ago. Lowry's Number the Stars sounds intriguing as well.

Table Talk said...

I'd forgotten about Lois Lowry. I used to lecture in Children's Literature and I'm finding that I really miss having the students around to discuss books like this with. Thank you for reminding me about this very fine book.

engelsigh said...

This one has been in my to be read pile forever.

Anonymous said...

this is a really amazing book

Anna and Serena said...

We've linked to your review here: