Monday, February 1, 2010

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

Number the Stars
by Lois Lowry tells the story of a young girl, Annemarie, and her life in Denmark during World War II. With Nazi soldiers positioned throughout Copenhagen, life had already been made difficult, but things become worse for everyone, especially Annemarie's friend Ellen and her family, when the Nazis begin a "relocation" program for all Jews. As Annemarie learns more about the bravery of others, especially her own family members, she grapples with the thought of just how courageous she could be. In an effort to save her friend's life, as well as those of several others, Annemarie is forced to come face to face with her fears and, in the end, to uncover how brave she truly is.

This book is a great read for elementary school students. It is a powerful text in the way it conveys the struggles of people during World War II in a manner not found within textbooks, and it portrays both men and women in courageous, powerful positions. It would be an excellent tool to show children that even the youngest members of society can have a positive impact on social justice issues.

The book can be used in a number of curricular units. Because it focuses mostly on the character of Annemarie, it could be used for a character study unit within language arts, showing the many thoughts and emotions she experiences and how she develops over the course of the book. Also in terms of language arts, the book could be used as part of an author study, reading this and other texts by Lois Lowry and exploring the similarities and differences, as well as part of a unit of books that include strong female characters. It could also be used in conjunction with a unit on World War II, focusing on the specific impact of "relocation." This could be done in terms of individuals and families, like the Rosens and the Johansens, as well as businesses/institutions, including Mrs. Hirsch's button shop. Students could use the text to uncover ways in which people in their own neighborhoods are discriminated against, as well, lending to a more personal and relevant social justice education. This may lead to further investigations of these issues, and students may wish to take some form of social action to assert their beliefs.

Number the Stars falls into many of the social justice education domains. Because it discusses the Jewish culture, it can be used to engage children in the realm of self-love and acceptance, and, since many of the individuals in the book who are not Jewish are more than willing to open their homes and risk their lives for their Jewish neighbors, it also encourages a sense of respect for others. The entire book covers the topic of "relocation" during World War II and the ways in which Jews were treated, or at least considered, by others in negative ways, so it helps explore issues of social justice. It also tackles social movements and social change, discussing how many people of Denmark took steps to do what they felt was right.

For more information or lessons or to purchase the text, go to:

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