Annemarie is a typical young girl in many ways. Ten years old, she deals with the typical difficulties of growing up—getting along with a sibling, understanding the way the adult world works. But these difficulties play out in the complicated and frightening context of war. War has made Annemarie a thoughtful and introspective girl. She spends much of her time reflecting on what she sees around her. Annemarie is very tuned in to the concerns of her parents and unusually aware of their vulnerability. Because the death of her older sister Lise, Annemarie worries about her parents and is careful not to upset them. She also has enormous respect for her mother and father, in particular Mr. Johansen. From her father's great sense of patriotism and devotion to his king, Annemarie learns to value bravery as the best quality a person can have.
For all the seriousness that the events of her life have instilled in her, Annemarie is still a dreamer and a free spirit. She loves to run. She dreams about the countryside of her childhood before the war. Though she does not care for the fairy tales that she tells her younger sister Kirsti, Annemarie sometimes makes the bizarre reality of war into a sort of game. For Annemarie, growing up in a country at war heightens the typical childhood dilemma of how to find a balance between being a child and entering into the world of adulthood and responsibility.
Because Annemarie is a child, she gives the reader an unusual view of war. The simplicity of her observations makes them profound. The comments that she makes about events allow us to see the basic absurdity of making war. Annemarie's perspective allows us to see issues that would not surface otherwise. Annemarie must try to understand events for which she receives no explanation. The lessons she learns apply not only to children, but to all people experiencing a war.