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Our March book selection 2nd and 3rd grades is the historical fiction book…
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
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About the Book & Author
Set in Copenhagen, Denmark in the year 1943, this is the story of ten year-old Annemarie Johansen and her best friend Ellen Rosen. Nazi soldiers have been in Copenhagen for three years, leading to food shortages and fearful neighbors. When the Nazis begin to take Jewish citizens away from their homes and businesses for “relocation,” Ellen’s Jewish family decides to escape the city.
Annemarie, her family, and the Rosens travel to the countryside, where they bravely set in motion a plan that will help many Jewish people escape to Sweden. But, in the end, there is one role that only Annemarie can play. In order to help her friend, she’ll have to use all her courage, cleverness, and compassion.
Lois Lowry spent her childhood traveling the world with her family because her father served as a dentist in the Army. The middle child of three, Ms. Lowry says she “was a solitary child who lived in the world of books and my own vivid imagination.” She has written more than thirty books for children.
Number the Stars was published in 1989, and won the Newbery Medal. Ms. Lowry won the Newbery again for The Giver, published in 1993. The Giver is the first of a wonderfully inventive and thought-provoking quartet of books, including Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son. Ms. Lowry is also well-known for her series about Anastasia Krupnik (for middle and upper grades) and Gooney Bird Greene (for lower grades). You can learn more about her at loislowry.com.
Buy, borrow, or download (free with Amazon Prime) a copy of this book and read it before your next book club meeting.
The Girls Leadership Connection
At the beginning of the story, the main character Annemarie is sheltered from the brutal truth about the Nazi occupation. Once she learns that her Jewish friends and neighbors are in grave danger, she has to decide what she will do. Will she stand by and hope that everything turns out okay for Ellen? Or, will she take action, contributing to the resistance effort like her parents and sister, even if that means facing her fears? Is she willing to risk her own safety for the sake of others?
When we see a person or group being mistreated or oppressed because of their abilities, gender identification, religion, ethnicity, or sexual preferences, we have a choice. When we make the choice to support that person or group, we are choosing being an ally over being a bystander.
Have you ever had to choose between being an ally and a bystander? What does being an ally mean to you?
Dr. Beverly Tatum, former president of Spellman College and author of the book Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? describes racism as a “moving walkway” that our culture is all on, whether we realize it or not. She wrote, “I sometimes visualize the ongoing cycle of racism as a moving walkway at the airport. Active racist behavior is equivalent to walking fast on the conveyor belt. The person engaged in active racist behavior has identified with the ideology of White supremacy and is moving with it. Passive racist behavior is equivalent to standing still on the walkway. No overt effort is being made, but the conveyor belt moves the bystanders along to the same destination as those who are actively walking. Some of the bystanders may feel the motion of the conveyor belt, see the active racists ahead of them, and choose to turn around, unwilling to go in the same destination as the White supremacists. But unless they are walking actively in the opposite direction at a speed faster than the conveyor belt—unless they are actively antiracist—they will find themselves carried along with the others.”
Dr. Tatum’s moving walkway metaphor for racism applies to other types of systemic prejudices. Opting out of prejudice isn’t sufficient to create change. For that, we have to commit ourselves to being anti-injustice. It takes a lot of effort, and it isn’t easy to do alone. Fortunately, there are probably many people around you who would also like to take action against injustice. Your book club might even be a good place to start.
Fighting for the equality of a marginalized group of which you are not a part is often called being an ally. Check out this helpful list of “10 Ways to Be an Ally & a Friend” on the GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) website.
Also, watch Franchesca Ramsey’s short YouTube video about how to be an ally. (Check out the video’s information section for other resources.) Ms. Ramsey is an activist and TV personality who makes informative and entertaining videos about politics and race.