Study Guide

Mrs. Johansen (Mama) in Number the Stars

By Lois Lowry

Mrs. Johansen (Mama)

The Right Stuff

Like her husband and the other "good guy" Danish grown-ups we meet in this book, Mama always does the right thing. In fact, she never even considers another option.

This lady doesn't play the hero—she just is the hero. The Rosens' safety is more important to her than anything else. Even when she breaks her ankle and is lying on the ground in pain, she's focused on the more important things:

"So clumsy," [Mama] said, as if she were scolding herself. "I'm afraid my ankle is broken, Annemarie. Thank goodness it is nothing worse. An ankle mends. And I am home, and the Rosens are with Henrik." (13.9)

She risks her life and her families' lives as part of the effort to try to save innocent people, some of whom she doesn't even know. She can't stand by and let these people be persecuted just because it would keep her family a little safer.

In fact, Mama even allows her ten-year-old daughter to act on behalf of the Resistance by bringing the secret package to Henrik. What do you think: is this respectful and honorable or risky and careless?

Quick as a Whip

Either way, Mama seems to be the brains of the family. When she and her husband are strategizing about the best way to get Ellen to Henrik's house, she's right on the ball:

"If only I go with the girls, it will be safer. They are unlikely to suspect a woman and her children. But if they are watching us—if they see all of us leave? If they are aware that the apartment is empty, that you don't go to your office this morning? Then they will know. Then it will be dangerous." (6.16)

And this is only the beginning. She also uses her wits to prevent the Nazis from looking in the empty coffin, and she comes up with a cover story for Annemarie to use when she has to take a special package to Henrik.

Okay… so what? No, really, so what? Why does it matter that Mama is smart? Well, as they say, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, and we can see in Mama all the things that Annemarie will grow up to be—and many of which she already is.

All Grown Up

Don't believe us that Mama is the grown up version of her daughter? Think about her relationship with Mrs. Rosen. Does it seem familiar to you? Probably because it's a lot like Annemarie's relationship with Ellen. Both women look out for their friends and go to any lengths to protect them. We're pretty sure Annemarie is following an example—ahem, an incredible example—set out by her mom.