Study Guide

Number the Stars Summary

By Lois Lowry

Number the Stars Summary

Annemarie Johansen is a young girl who hangs out with her friend Ellen and takes care of her little sister Kirsti. Seems normal enough, right? Sure, except that she lives in Copenhagen, Denmark, during World War II. Copenhagen used to be peaceful, but now it's full of enemy soldiers. The Nazis have come into Denmark from Germany and are slowly forcing the Danish people to do what they say.

(Quick history break: are you interested in the historical context behind all of this? You can read more of the details about what happened in Denmark during World War II at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website. One section, "Rescue in Denmark," talks specifically about what characters like Annemarie and Ellen would have seen and experienced while living in the country.)

Annemarie is a thoughtful young lady, and she reflects on how much life has changed since the Nazis came along. Actually, Annemarie's older sister Lise died around the time the war began and naturally, Annemarie misses her like crazy. At least her family still gets to see Lise's mysterious (in a good way) fiancé, Peter.

Things start getting worse in Denmark. The Nazis have begun gathering up Jews and taking them somewhere unknown. Brave families like the Johansens insist on helping their Jewish friends, no matter how dangerous it might be. Ellen comes to live with Annemarie, pretending to be her sister, and even removing her Star of David necklace to hide her identity.

After a scary interrogation by Nazi soldiers, Mrs. Johansen takes Ellen, Annemarie, and Kirsti to visit her brother (their uncle) Henrik up north. After a tense run-in with more Nazi soldiers on the train, they make it to Henrik's house, and are able to relax a little. (Don't get too excited, it doesn't last long.)

Pretty soon, they start preparing a funeral for a non-existent great aunt. Turns out they're trying to fake a reason for having so many people at their house. Several other Jewish people, including Ellen's parents (whew!) show up, too. After the funeral, Peter and Mrs. Johansen each take a group of Jewish guests out of the house—toward safety, it seems.

When her mom gets back, injured from a bad fall, Annemarie discovers that an important package Ellen's father was supposed to take to Henrik never made it. Her mother sure can't take it, so Annemarie has to go. Talk about courage. She hides the package in a basket with food and hurries through the woods to her uncle's boat—but not before another scary encounter with the Nazi soldiers and their dogs.

Only later does Annemarie find out that she did something wonderful and courageous. Henrik had hidden Ellen's family and other people on his boat. When Nazi soldiers and their dogs came to search the boat, they didn't sniff out any humans—the package had a special ingredient in it that kept the dogs from finding the people hidden on Henrik's boat. If Annemarie hadn't delivered the package, they would have all been discovered. So Annemarie saved them. The boat traveled safely to Sweden, and Ellen and her family escaped.

The book concludes two years later, as World War II is ending. Peter has been discovered as a Resistance worker and killed by the Nazis. But in a moment of hope, Annemarie knows that her best friend will finally be able to come back home—and she has her necklace waiting for her.