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Number the Stars | Study Guide

Lois Lowry

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Lois Lowry | Biography


Family and Education

Lois Lowry was born March 20, 1937, as Lois Ann Hammersberg in Honolulu, Hawaii. As a child she was a remarkable student, skipping from first to third grade. She traveled frequently because her father was an Army officer. Her family moved to the mainland not long before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor during World War II (1939–45). During the war, she, her mother, and her siblings lived in Pennsylvania. After that the family also lived in Japan during some of her school years. By the time of her high school graduation, she was living in New York City.

Lois graduated high school at 16 and began college at Pembroke, a branch of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, for female students. Despite her intellectual prowess, she left college at 19 to marry Donald Lowry, a Harvard educated naval officer. By the time she was 26 she had four children under the age of five: Alix, Kristin, Grey, and Ben.

She finished her bachelor's degree at the University of Southern Maine in the early 1970s. At this same time, she developed an interest in photography and added a darkroom to her home. Lowry also did some writing, mostly textbooks and short stories, after finishing her degree.

In 1977 she and her husband divorced.


Lowry's first novel, A Summer to Die, was published in 1977. According to Lowry, the book was not "strictly autobiographical." It was, however, strongly influenced by the death of her sister Helen, who died from cancer when Lowry was 25. The novel was well received, and a second novel, Find a Stranger, Say Goodbye, followed in 1978.

Lowry's third novel, Anastasia Krupnik, was the start of a highly successful comic series. Published in 1979, Anastasia Krupnik was followed by eight more books about Anastasia's adventures. Over the course of this series, Anastasia, who ages from 10 to 13, works as a maid, minds the house, and practices journalism. Other comic novels, including The One Hundredth Thing About Caroline (1983) and Your Move, J.P.! (1990), followed, but Lowry did not limit herself to comic fiction. She continued to publish both comedic and serious children's fiction.

The 1989 novel Number the Stars collected numerous awards: a Newbery Medal and a National Jewish Book Award for Children's Literature among others. Lowry says that she wrote Number the Stars, like many of her other works, to show the vital role that we as humans play in the lives of other people. She has also done much of her writing based on the belief that "we live intertwined on this planet and that our future depends upon our caring more, and doing more, for one another." Like many of her other books, this one calls for an end to hate and conflict and for more love and collaboration among people around the world. The award for Number the Stars was followed by a second Newbery Medal in 1997 for The Giver.

The Giver, a novel about a world seemingly without fear or violence, was the start of a four-book series set in this dystopia. After a several-year gap The Giver was followed by Gathering Blue (2000), The Messenger (2004), and Son (2012). A film adaptation of the initial book in the quartet was produced in 2014.

Lowry's most recent comedic series began in 2002 with Gooney Bird Greene, which was followed by Gooney the Fabulous (2007), and several more books in the series have followed since then. However, she continued to write books that are more serious in tone. Her 2017 release, The Silent Boy, is a historical novel about a doctor's daughter and set in the early 20th century.

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