Discussion Guide: Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry
- How is it possible that the youth of Denmark observed Nazi guards in their streets but did not recognize pending danger?
(parents down-played their concern to protect their children from fear, and the German presence was relatively non-threatening at first. No one could know how intense the political scene was going to eventually become for Denmark, nor when it might happen.
- Younger sister Kirsti listens to Annemarie tell stories which include pink frosted cupcakes. Why did the author include this detail?
(to draw our attention to the abundance of food that is available to us daily, and to demonstrate how food shortages affect the entire community during war times.)
- “All of Denmark is his (King Christian’s) bodyguard,” said Papa, yet our honorable King surrenders Denmark to Germany without much of a fight. What caused this breakdown?
(Nazis were too many and too powerful to be beaten at this time. Many neighboring countries had already demonstrated failed attempts with great loss.)
- As tensions mount, Annemarie becomes concerned with the treatment of Jews in Denmark, including her friend Ellen Rosen. What caused her to lose her conviction and begin to despair?
(putting your life on the line for a friend is a brave theory, but who of us wouldn’t cower at the thought of our very skin in the game?)
- How does Papa convince the guards in the middle of the night that Ellen is his daughter?
(he carefully handpicks baby photos to show the guards that his daughter was born with dark curly hair. Close enough to be convincing)
- In what ways does our author describe Uncle Henrik that we know we can trust him, even though he is lying to Annemarie about dead Aunt Birte?
(Uncle is quiet, gentle, and knowledgeable, with blue eyes, rubbing the cow’s neck after milking her. Everything about him is safe and affectionate)
- Annemarie is startled to realize that her Uncle and Mama are lying to her. What does she discover about the importance of lies?
(that in desperate times, lying to our loved ones is a way of protecting them from the burden of truth. It also serves to prevent people from having to fake their reactions. How often are drug smugglers discovered at airports because they are acting nervous and sweating a lot?)
- Describe how Peter’s relationship to Mama Johanson has changed throughout the book.
(where he once referred to her as Mrs. Johanson, and eventually “Mama” as his future mother-in-law, Peter (a leader in the resistance) now refers to her by her first name (Inge) indicating that they are adults and peers in this endeavor.)
- Mama and Kirsti both inadvertently teach Annemarie how to handle herself if Nazi guards threaten your covert operation. Describe both influences briefly.
(Mama becomes agreeable and accommodating, while calmly lying through her teeth about the corpse that is not in the coffin. She is an amazing actress who realizes that their lives depend on her quick thinking and superb acting. Kirsti comes by her talent honestly, being a typical self-centered and occasionally petulant 5 year old who chatters about silly little girl things, quickly causing guards to roll their eyes and shoo her away.)
- As a reader, did you develop your own theories about how the author would use the casket and the very important packet? Did the author surprise you in the reveal?
(Our imaginations definitely run wild with possibilities, but the author found a clever and yet plausible purpose for both of these important elements.)
- In chapter 12, Annemarie points out that it was harder for the ones who were waiting. Less danger, but more fear. How is this harder?
(Perhaps our imagination has time to get the best of us when we are waiting too long and we don’t know why we are waiting. It’s easy to become frantic when someone is late and danger is a possibility.)
- It seems like everything has gone wrong and Annemarie is doomed to fail. What saves the mission?
(She must rely on her training by behaving like her little sister. Also, it helps tremendously that the packet, which is indeed discovered by the guards, turns out to be a handkerchief that feels insignificant to the guards as well as Annemarie.)