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Number the Stars
Number the Stars
by Lois Lowry
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Number the Stars Theme of Identity

Remember that Star of David necklace that Ellen is wearing when the Nazi soldiers first come to the house? You know, the one that graces the cover of almost every publication of Number the Stars? That's a symbol of Ellen's Jewish identity. But even when Annemarie has to rip the necklace right off her, Ellen is still Jewish. See, identity is something that sticks with you—no matter who is trying to get in your way. Knowing that the Jews could maintain their identity under persecution from the Nazis makes us feel like we can hold onto ours, too, no matter what the situation.

Questions About Identity

  1. Does the war change the characters' identities in Number the Stars?If so, which aspects of their identities change? If not, why not?
  2. At different points, Ellen and Annemarie both have to pretend they're somebody else. Is this equally as tough for both of them? What's at stake for each of them when they're pretending?
  3. Who is Great-aunt Birte? Why is she important? 
  4. How did the big reveal about Annemarie's older sister, Lise, change your opinion of her? Or did it change your opinion at all?
  5. The Nazis identify Ellen first and foremost as a Jew. Is that how she would identify herself? Are there other aspects of her identity that are just as important to her?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Ellen doesn't have to change much when she pretends to be Lise Johansen. After all, she pretty much feels like Annemarie's sister already.

In Number the Stars, young people are told not to stand out—they need to blend into the crowd for their own safety. This just wouldn't fly in 21st century America.

Next Page: Lies and Deceit
Previous Page: Courage

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