Study Guide

Number the Stars Courage

By Lois Lowry


The Resistance fighters were 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. (1.55)

The Resistance fighters are known by their actions, not their individual personalities. And that's the way things have to be if they want to stay off the radar and continue their fight against the Nazis.

"The boy looked right at the soldier, and he said, 'All of Denmark is his bodyguard.'"

Annemarie had shivered. It sounded like a very brave answer. "Is it true, Papa?" she asked. "What the boy said?" (2.21-22)

This is a true story! Check out Lowry's Afterword for more on that.

But ordinary people like the Rosens and the Johansens? Annemarie admitted to herself, snuggling there in the quiet dark, that she was glad to be an ordinary person who would never be called upon for courage. (4.60)

Oh, the irony. As soon as Annemarie gives thanks that she won't "be called upon for courage," she finds herself in situations that require some major bravery.

"I think you are like your mama, and like your papa, and like me. Frightened, but determined, and if the time came to be brave, I am quite sure you would be very, very brave.

"But," he [Henrik] added, "it is much easier to be brave if you do not know everything. And so your mama does not know everything. Neither do I. We know only what we need to know." (9.15-16)

Do you agree? Is it better only to know what you need to know? Is this a classic case of TMI?

O praise the Lord.
How good it is to sing psalms to our God!
How pleasant to praise him!
The Lord is rebuilding Jerusalem;
he gathers in the scattered sons of Israel.
It is he who heals the broken in spirit
and binds up their wounds,
he who numbers the stars one by one.

To learn more about this quotation—straight from the Bible—check out what we have to say in "What's Up With the Title?"

It was one more time, Annemarie realized, when they protected one another by not telling. If Mr. Rosen knew, he might be frightened. If Mr. Rosen knew, he might be in danger.

So he hadn't asked. And Peter hadn't explained. (11.24-25)

If Mr. Rosen knew what was in the package, he'd probably be way more freaked out. And he totally gets that. This isn't cowardice, it's just practical.

Mama sighed. "So clumsy," she 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)

When Mama sighs here, we almost hear it as a sigh of relief. She has just completed the most courageous act of her life (bringing Ellen's family to Henrik's boat), and even though she broke her ankle in the process, she couldn't care less. She can relax now—and it's time for someone to take care of her.

Kirsti hadn't been frightened. Kirsti had been—well, nothing more than a silly little girl, angered because the soldier had touched her hair that afternoon. She had known nothing of danger, and the soldier had been amused by her. (15.3)

Kirsti doesn't really know enough to be scared. But does that mean she isn't acting bravely throughout the whole story? Can you be brave without knowing it? What do you think?

"I will tell you just a little, because you were so very brave."

"Brave?" Annemarie asked, surprised. "No, I wasn't. I was very frightened."

"You risked your life."

"But I didn't even think about that!" (16.18-21)

If Annemarie had known she was risking her life, do you think she would have been able to go through with it?

"Dark, and cold, and very cramped. And Mrs. Rosen was seasick, even though we were not on the water very long—it is a short distance, as you know. But they are courageous people. And none of that mattered when they stepped ashore. The air was fresh and cool in Sweden; the wind was blowing." (16.52)

We've spent a lot of time talking about how courageous Annemarie and her family are throughout the novel. But we can't forget about Ellen and her family. They have no choice but to be brave. It's literally a life or death situation.