Saturday, March 22, 2008

Number the Stars

Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry, won the Newbery Medal in 1990. It is a fairly short and simply written story, and quite beautiful in many ways, which surprised me. I didn't expect a story about the Nazi occupation of Denmark in 1943 to be so poetic. I thought it might be moving (which it was), and suspenseful (it definitely was), but it is Lowry's unaffected illustration of everyday life and the heroism of ordinary people that really shines in this book.

Although I've had this book on my shelf for months, I didn't read it because I thought a book - even a children's book - about the Holocaust was bound to be depressing. I was utterly wrong; this book was anything but depressing. It was inspiring, and one of my favorite Newbery winners so far.

A lot of other reviewers have already described the plot. I thought I would just add that I loved the kitten in the story - Thor (aka The God of Thunder). He added such a realistic little touch to Uncle Henrik's farm:
Inside the house, Mama scrubbed and dusted, tsk-tsking at Uncle Henrik's untidy housekeeping. She took the rugs out to the clothesline and beat them with a stick, scattering dust into the air...

"Just look at this," she said, opening the door to the little-used formal living room with its old-fashioned furniture. "He never dusts." And she picked up her cleaning rags.

"And, Kristi," she added, "the God of Thunder made a very small rain shower in the corner of the kitchen floor. Keep an eye on him."

Late in the afternoon, Uncle Henrik came home. He grinned when he saw the newly cleaned and polished house, the double doors to the living room wide open, the rugs aired, and the windows washed (p. 70).
Lowry writes with such economy. It was a joy to read her elegant descriptions, and the story was beautifully plotted, with several unexpected twists. And I know some of the things I learned will stick with me forever - especially the fish skin shoes and the clever, clever handkerchiefs. Don't make the same mistake I did and dither about reading this one.


Amanda (the librarian) said...

I so enjoyed this book too and wish I had read (or in my case listened) to it sooner. I've just ordered a whole bunch of Newbery winner audiobooks and am looking forward to reviewing them. It's often easier for me to do audiobooks (with my long commute) than find time to read a Newbery (although I am almost done now with Smoky, the Cowhorse).

Maw Books said...

I seem to be reading a lot of Holocaust books lately. I may have to read this one as well.