Skip over navigation

Number the Stars

Lois Lowry

Study Questions and Essay Topics

Key Facts

Quiz

According to Number the Stars, why would growing up in a time of war make the normal process of maturing more complicated?

As a child matures, she goes through a time of questioning. Comparing herself to the examples she sees, a judgment is made about behavior. She wonders if she behaves like a child or like an adult. The war forces Annemarie to be more mature in certain situations, but in others she must be protected because she is so young. Under the unusual circumstances of war, individuals, both young and old, must adapt to different roles. Annemarie needs to be responsible in ways she would not have to normally. This gives her the impression of being more like an adult. But she is also kept from knowing too much, because it would be inappropriate to tell a person her age everything about the war. So she is sometimes treated like an adult, and sometimes treated like a child. Annemarie is unsure where she stands because she is in the natural process of growing older. But this process is made more difficult for her by the demands and restrictions that living during a war put on her.

Discuss how a war might be compared to a fairy tale or fictional story.

Fairy tales are made-up stories that often contain elements of pure fantasy. Much of what happens in fairy tales could not happen in real life. Part of the thrill of hearing a fairy tale is feeling a frisson of horror when an evil being tries to eat children, or a monster chases an inquisitive child. But war can be so horrible that it may seem unreal in the way that fairy tales are unreal, and war can make real the violence that seems impossible in fairy tales. Lowry draws a parallel between fairy tales and war in order to highlight the unimaginable atrocity of war. The way that humans treat each other during a war is often beyond what we are able to imagine. Thus war may appear to be more like fiction than a reality. In fairy tales, the lines are clearly drawn between the good and evil forces, and there is an assumption that those who do violence will be punished. In war, the forces of good and evil are not so clearly defined, and the violence-doers sometimes go unpunished.

Discuss Lowry's idea that fear does not make bravery impossible.

Bravery is an issue that Annemarie deals with throughout Number the Stars. She constantly tries to measure her own bravery against her parents' and Peter Neilsen's actions and bravery. Annemarie concludes that her fear will keep her from being brave. She hopes that she will never have to demonstrate her courage. But Annemarie is able to be brave when she must be. Uncle Henrik speaks to her about his own experience and admits to feeling fear, as she does. He helps Annemarie to see that doing something despite your fear is the truest form of bravery. This is a significant discovery for Annemarie because it allows her to see that adults are vulnerable, too. Because the people in Number the Stars experience fear, they are realistic. Lowry does not create a super-human heroine. She infuses Annemarie with the same concerns that any child might have, in a war or in regular life.

Suggested Essay Topics

Why would seeing a war from a child's perspective provide insights that the reader might not have otherwise? How does the nature of Annemarie's observations elucidate human relations to war?

How does the story of Little Red Riding-Hood create a parallel to Annemarie's own story?

Interactions between children and adults in Number the Stars are often based on the transmission of information or stories. How does the role of information, or lack of information, impact the way that Annemarie views adults?

What role does patriotism play in the story? How is devotion to one's country privileged above all other things? Does this affect the way Jews are treated by non-Jewish Danes?

How does the past impact the way the characters of Number the Stars view the present and the future? What role do Mrs. Johansen's stories play in forming Annemarie's attitude towards the present and her ambitions for the future?

More Help

Previous Next

Readers' Notes allow users to add their own analysis and insights to our SparkNotes—and to discuss those ideas with one another. Have a novel take or think we left something out? Add a Readers' Note!

Follow Us