Annemarie Johansen

Annemarie is the protagonist of the story. She lives in Copenhagen, Denmark with her mother, father, and younger sister Kirsti. Annemarie's best friend is Ellen, the girl who lives next door. Annemarie is ten years old. She is tall and unusually thoughtful for her age. She is very aware of the limitations the war has put on her family's daily existence. Annemarie's five-year-old sister Kirsti is oblivious to the war, which only makes Annemarie more conscious of the changes in her life. Annemarie looks up to her parents and Peter Neilsen, her dead sister Lise's ex-fiancé. She also greatly admires King Christina X, the king of Demark. In all of these people, Annemarie recognizes bravery and wishes that she could be as brave as those she admires. The events of Annemarie's life finally bring her to the realization that her fear does not prevent her from being brave, too.

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Ellen Rosen

Annemarie's schoolmate and best friend, who is Jewish. An only child, Ellen is very studious and more serious than her best friend. Ellen wants to be an actress and she had the main role in the school drama. Ellen is always enlivening the paper doll games she and Annemarie play. To Ellen, the events of the war are terrifying. In her fear, Ellen looks to Annemarie for sisterly comfort.

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Mrs. Johansen

Annemarie's mother, who is a strong and determined woman, firm but warm with her children. Mrs. Johansen willingly risks her life to help Ellen and the Rosens to escape the Nazis. She manages to keep up the spirits of the girls, even when there is danger, by telling stories. Her calm childhood by the sea is very different from the one her daughters are living.

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Peter Neilsen

Part of the Resistance movement, he was engaged to Lise Johansen, the oldest of the Johansen's three daughters, before she died. He visits the Johansen family occasionally, bringing them news and gifts. Annemarie thinks of him as her "almost-brother." Peter is the effective leader of the plan to get the Rosens to safety. His stoic bravery makes him seem older than his twenty years.

Kirsten Johansen

Annemarie's younger sister, who is five years old and a feisty, chatty girl. Completely unafraid of German soldiers and death, Kristi is the embodiment of blissful innocence. She loves stories about kings and queens and is constantly turning the surrealistic aspects of war into the fantasy of fairy tales.


Mrs. Johansen's younger brother, a fisherman in the sea town of Gilleleje. A bachelor, Henrik still lives in the family home where Mrs. Johansen grew up and Annemarie spent her childhood vacations. Henrick plays an important role in saving Ellen and her family, smuggling them and other Jews to Sweden in his boat.

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Mr. Johansen

A pillar of strength, he is deeply patriotic and willing to die for Denmark. Mr. Johansen is the teacher of his family and tells Annemarie about the country and the war.

Lise Johansen

The eldest Johansen daughter, who died several years before the beginning of the novel, around the end of 1941. Lise was a member of the Resistance with Peter.

The Rosens

Mrs. Rosen is Ellen's mother and Mrs. Johansen's friend. The two mothers often have coffee together in the afternoon. Mrs. Rosen fears the ocean, but she overcomes it Henrick takes her family across to Sweden. Mr. Rosen is a teacher and has instilled in his daughter the importance of education.

Mrs. Hirsch

The owner of the corner shop. She is Jewish. She and her family are among the first to leave Copenhagen.

Great-aunt Birte

The fictional aunt whose fictional death is part of the plan to help Ellen, her family, and other Jews escape.


Uncle Henrik's milk cow.


The kitten that Kirsti finds.