Study Guide

Number the Stars Chapter 1

By Lois Lowry

Chapter 1

Why Are You Running?

  • When the book begins, Annemarie and her BFF, Ellen, are on their way home from school in Copenhagen. (Bonus points if you can find that on a map.)
  • They decide to run a race. Now that's some old school fun.
  • Annemarie's little sister, Kirsti, is with them. The two older girls race ahead, but their run is cut short when they encounter two soldiers. 
  • Turns out the soldiers are Germans—Nazis. Annemarie's thoughts reveal to us, as readers, that the Germans have occupied Denmark for three years at this point.
  • Quick pause for a history lesson: the Germans occupied Denmark in 1940, so that means it's now 1943. (And you thought math was useless.)
  • The soldiers have a bunch of questions for the girls, and Annemarie tries to take the lead. She and Ellen are scared, but little Kirsti doesn't seem to be.
  • Luckily, the soldiers think Kirsti is cute and so let the three girls continue on their way, telling them that they shouldn't race. (Whew.) 
  • Turns out these soldiers are all over Denmark.
  • At home, Annemarie and Ellen say goodbye to each other while Kirsti heads inside. The two girls decide that they'll keep their little encounter with the soldiers a secret. But when Annemarie goes into her apartment, she realizes that Kirsti has already spilled the beans. Ah, little sisters.
  • Ellen's mom and Annemarie's mom are both inside, and they're both really worried. The mothers talk about recent activity by Resistance workers in the area.
  • And that's our cue for another history snack. Resistance was a movement of Jews and non-Jews alike to, well, resist the Nazis. They were particularly successful in Denmark during the first few years of German occupation. (Here's some more to chew on if you're interested.) 
  • Back to the story. Before leaving, Ellen's mom tells Annemarie that they have to be extra careful. Spooky.
  • Annemarie and Kirsti's mom tells them they can have a snack, but their choices are limited because of the occupation by the soldiers. They don't have butter, sugar, or coffee. Boo.