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Number the Stars

Lois Lowry

Important Quotations Explained

Afterword

Key Facts

It was only in the fairy tales that people were called upon to be so brave, to die for one another. Not in real-life Denmark.

Annemarie struggles with the concept of bravery. Her parents say they are willing to risk their lives for Denmark, but Annemarie is not sure that she could do the same. In this quotation, Annemarie justifies what she views as her own lack of bravery. As in other places in the novel, here Annemarie associates the war with a fairy tale-like reality. She separates what is "real-life" from the war. In doing so, Annemarie is able to keep herself outside of the war, at least for the moment. Through the rest of the novel, Annemarie grapples with the questions raised in this quotation. Where does bravery come from? Does she herself possess it? What is the reality of the war? These are all issues that Annemarie attempts to resolve for herself.

[Annemarie] hesitated and glanced at her mother, fearful that she had said the wrong thing, the thing that would bring the pained look to her mother's face.

In this quotation, Annemarie and her mother have been talking about the old days. Annemarie is very aware of her mother's reaction to anything having to do with Lise. The death of Lise, Mrs. Johansen's first daughter, is something of which Mrs. Johansen never speaks. Annemarie does not like to make her mother think about Lise for fear of upsetting her. This shows Annemarie's clearly developed sense of protection for her mother. Annemarie is a child, but she has been exposed to tragedy. Lise's death has made Annemarie more careful than most children would be of their parents' feelings. Even though Annemarie does not realize that her sister's death was the doing of the Germans, we can see how the war has already shaped the way Annemarie acts. She is more mature than she might be otherwise.

"What's happening?" Annemarie asked when she and Ellen were alone with Papa in the living room. "Something's wrong. What is it?" Papa's face was troubled. "I wish that I could protect you children from this knowledge," he said quietly.

In this scene, Mr. Johansen is about to explain to Annemarie that the Germans are "relocating" the Jews. Annemarie has already found out that Jewish shops are being closed, but she does not understand the extent to which the Germans are after the Jews. Her father says that he wishes he could "protect [the] children from this knowledge." Mr. Johansen's inability to protect them is a demonstration of the way that war requires young children to be exposed to information they would normally not have to handle. Lack of knowledge is presented as a protection. But Mr. Johansen does not have the power to keep the knowledge from Annemarie. A delicate balance is established between how much a child needs to know in order to act safely and how much the information will destroy the child's trust in the world.

For a moment, to Annemarie, listening, it seemed like all the earlier times, the happy visits to the farm in the past with summer daylight extending beyond bedtime, with the children tucked away in the bedrooms and the grownups downstairs talking.

Annemarie has a great sense of nostalgia for the past. Though she is only ten years old, her memories are a source of pleasure and comfort to her. Frequently, Annemarie looks to the happier days of the past with a feeling of regret. She has particularly strong memories about the house by the ocean where her mother grew up and where she spent summers. As Annemarie listens to her mother and uncle talking, she is reminded of what if felt like before the war. The long days of light give the impression of safety. The distinction between the children "tucked away" and the adults downstairs is clearly cut and makes Annemarie feel secure in the knowledge that children exist on one side, grownups exist on the other. This is a division that Annemarie cannot make anymore. The impression of safety in her image of the past also comes from the easily drawn separation between the adults and the children. Now things are not as simple. Annemarie has trouble knowing which group she belongs in. The security of the past has dissipated.

"[I]t 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."

In this quotation, Uncle Henrik is explaining to Annemarie why he and Mrs. Johansen lied about Great-aunt Birte. For the first time, Annemarie is being told that knowing everything is not always good. To Annemarie, knowing more information means being more adult. When she is deceived, Annemarie gets upset about the lie, but also because she feels she is not being treated like an adult. Uncle Henrik helps her to see that in this case, knowing too much can be a disadvantage. It can even impede bravery. Though she does not yet see just how true Henrik's explanation is, Annemarie notices, over the course of the night, exactly what he means. She also begins to form a new picture of what it means to be brave. To Annemarie, bravery is one of the most important traits a person can have. All the adults she loves and respects are brave. What Annemarie comes to discover (with the help of Uncle Henrik) is that bravery is not necessarily about facing everything at once.

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Rating. I loved it!

by SoldierGina, November 26, 2014

Honestly, Number the Stars really had me thinking about life. It was just the realistic description of things that really made it go deep. It changed my whole outlook on life in general. It also helped me spiritually. It showed me that people go through bad hardships sometimes, but, you can make it through. It has helped me come to terms with some of the hardships I face in my life. Whenever something miserable happens, my mind immediately goes back to this story. This story really goes beyond a story, it touches you spiritually and emotiona... Read more

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