Book Review: Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

After reading The Giver, I knew I had to have more Lois Lowry. I shamefully must admit that I’ve also never read Number the Stars.  As an interesting side note, this book was the first I’ve ever read on an EReader (I borrowed one from my colleague to test whether I wanted to purchase one).  This amazing story follows Annemarie Johansen, a ten year old girl living in Copenhagen, Demark during the Nazi invasion and her family’s attempt to protect her best friend’s Jewish family.  When the Johansen’s concealed Annemarie’s best friend Ellen as their own daughter, they put themselves at great danger and risk. My heart was pounding when the Nazi’s stormed the Johansen’s house in the middle of the night and began questioning whether Ellen was truly their daughter.  The Johansen’s quick thinking and bravery is so admirable.  Lowry did an amazing job at making the reader feel all the emotions the characters were experiencing.  

 Although Number the Stars is classified as a historical fiction story to introduce children to the Holocaust, almost all of the details were based on true accounts.  Lowry definitely did her research on the resistance and survival when writing this novel.  This book informed me of the lengths the Danes went to protect the Jews. In the author’s notes, readers learn that the Danes helped nearly 7,000 Jews to flee from the Nazis.

Number the Stars truly deserved the 1990 Newberry Medal for the ‘most distinguished contribution to American literature for children’. If I had to sum up the book in three words: touching, powerful, and unforgettable.  A must read for all ages.

                                                                                                                                                                   

Book Review: The Giver by Lois Lowry

This week I chose to read a classic, rather than a new release.  Since The Giver has forever been on my ‘to-read’ list, it was an obvious choice.  However, I wish I read this in high school or in a book club so I could have the opportunity to discuss this amazing thought provoking novel.

So what’s it all about? Jonas lives in a ‘perfect’ world. Careers, marriages, and children are all assigned.  His community lives in ‘sameness’ so individuals are protected against making the wrong choices. When Jonas turns 12, he is assigned a very rare job that requires training from the Giver. When Jonas becomes the ‘Receiver of Memories’ he begins to learn the truth of his world.  Such memories bring him pleasure (feelings of love, colour, etc.) and pain (memories of hunger, war, etc.)

Classified as a children’s dystopian novel, I can definitely see where The Giver has influenced the genre.  For example, one similarity between Divergent and The Giver is the element of age. In both novels, age plays an important part in the lives of the main characters as they undergo life-altering age ceremonies.

After reading this book, I was left with many philosophical questions. What would life by like if we converted to ‘sameness’?   If I were chosen as the Receiver of Memories, could I be capable of taking on all the pain, emotions and joys of an entire community? I don’t think avoiding all the pain and bad memories are worth giving up all the joys of life and I’m glad Jonas thought the same too.

My only critique is the ending. I know I’m not the only one to state my disappointment with the abrupt ambiguous ending. However, Lowry has stated that there is no right or wrong interpretation and it is up to readers to form their own conclusions.

Overall, since the book does include heavy issues such as euthanasia, infanticide and suicide, I would recommend this book for mature children, ages 8+.   Also, if you are among the millions of readers that loved this book, you’d be happy to know that the book is the first of a trilogy, with Gathering Blue (2000) and Messenger (2004) following.                                                                                                 Cover

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