Sunday, October 10, 2010

Book Review : Number the Stars

Title : Number the Stars
Author : Lois Lowry

An amazing, sensitive and emotional story about two very dear friends - Annemarie Johansen and Ellen Rosen set against the backdrop of World War II in Denmark. The two girls love to be together but at this time saving life is of prime importance, for which even separation is acceptable. Ellen belonged to the Jewish community and for Jews - Denmark, their own country, their own home for ages was not safe anymore. Nazi soldiers were all over the place and some strict irrational rules were being imposed on the people living in the city - not to use the electricity, no proper availability of food items, just to name a few. In spite of all these, people were continuing with their lives as normally as they possibly could, but one day, the Jewish families were informed that Germans had prepared a list of all Jewish families in the neighborhood and plan to "relocate" them. By now, people were aware of what Germans meant with the word 'relocate'.

Johansen family became instrumental in doing their bit to protect the Rosen's family and ensure that they exit Denmark before Germans reach them so they hide Ellen in their home as their eldest daughter, who had died in a mysterious accident. And they made arrangements to send the Rosen's family to Sweden with the help of Annemarie's uncle Henrik who was a fisherman. In this pursuit, Annemarie found herself in a very crucial situation where she had to use her presence of mind and her inner confidence to make this mission a success.

As the events of the story unfold, we observe Annemarie getting mature, not by years but by the experience. I liked the way author pointed this out so subtly - 'They (Annemarie and her mother) looked at each other for a long time and said nothing. In that moment, with that look, they became equals'. Sometimes adversity manages to bridge all gaps between individuals and that is what gets conveyed through this book.
While witnessing the situations and the sudden changes in her and her dear ones' lives, Annemarie's mind struggles to find answers to many of her doubts and questions, but she understands and later comes to realize the importance of her uncle's simple wisdom - 'It is much easier to be brave if you do not know everything. We know only what we need to know.'

The story very cautiously reveals the fears, apprehensions and uncertainty that were in the minds of each family and more so in the Jew families, without going into the gory details of holocaust and concentration camps. 'Number the Stars' manages to strike the right balance between just appropriate amount of information for the young readers while focusing more on the friendship which cuts across castes, creeds, religions and communities. The beautiful handling of the subject makes it a highly recommended book for 9+ yrs.

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