Friday, September 9, 2016

Reflections: Number the Stars

Lois Lowry's The Giver is a masterpiece and easily merits a spot on the Thousander Club Must-Read list.  Number the Stars, which title comes from the 147th Psalm, is only the second book of Lowry's I have read.  It's smart and tense, albeit not as affecting and profound as The Giver.  Written for younger readers, it creates enough peril and danger to instruct children regarding the terrifying atmosphere of the second world war without becoming too heavy-handed.

The didactic value of Number the Stars is in its lesson on bravery.  Annemarie, the book's main protagonist, is a modern symbol of Little Red Riding Hood, which is referenced directly in the book.  Young readers, especially young girls, can benefit by relating to Annemarie—an ordinary girl thrust into an extraordinary and difficult situation.  In fact, Number the Stars is a book I want my young daughters to read.  I want them to learn how to be brave, and Number the Stars teaches that lesson quite nicely.

I do feel the book requires some additional context which is not provided.  Although a young reader may understand the overall peril in the book and discern who the bad and good guys are, I felt the exposition in the book may leave some readers, especially the younger ones, wondering what may be happening.  Perhaps there is value in that since the protagonist is a young person herself, and she doesn't fully understand the gravity of the situation in which she is placed.  As the book suggests, sometimes not knowing something is where bravery may be found.  I cede that point but wonder if adult readers are taking for granted what we already know about World War 2, the Holocaust, and Nazism.  Regardless, Number the Stars is perfectly readable the way it is.

Lois Lowry's intended audience can be taught and molded by a book like Number the Stars, and I think Lowry knows exactly who that audience is.  It's not the masterpiece that The Giver is, but it's a good book. It's worth reading, and its lesson is worth learning.

Other Topics of Interest:
Thousander Must-Reads
What Should a 9th Grader Read?
Reflections: Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl

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