Number the Stars | Study Guide

Lois Lowry

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Number the Stars | Chapter 7 : The House by the Sea | Summary

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Summary

They arrive at Uncle Henrik's house and encounter a kitten. Ellen reveals to Annemarie she has never seen the sea, only the harbor in Copenhagen where they live. She tells Annemarie her mother "is afraid of the ocean," and that she thinks it is "too big for her. And too cold!" They play at the edge of the ocean, where Annemarie finds a leaf that she says "may have come from a tree in Sweden." She points out Sweden, a small strip of land way out in the ocean in the distance. When they rejoin Mrs. Johansen, she is worried they might have been seen. "I'm afraid there are soldiers everywhere," she says.

Ellen asks about her Star of David necklace. Annemarie assures her is hidden until it is safe for Ellen to wear it. Ellen tells her the necklace was a gift from her father, and they listen to Annemarie's mother and uncle talking downstairs. Annemarie notices that everything now feels different from the way it was in the past. The narrator describes the mood: "In the earlier times, she [Annemarie] had always overheard laughter. Tonight there was no laughter at all."

Analysis

The vastness of the ocean, the sense that it is overwhelming and incomprehensible, is akin to the attempt to understand the war or anti-Semitism. Especially for a child, it seems impossible to grasp. The world seems huge, foreboding, and cold. There are soldiers everywhere. Yet, there are also currents of hope. The leaf they see "may have come from a tree in Sweden." In Sweden, which they can see in the distance, there is safety for the Jews. Sweden is not occupied. It stands as a beacon of hope, a reminder that the war is not everywhere, that hate is not everywhere.

The acts of the Danes in rescuing their neighbors represent hope, especially as readers discover how many people looked the other way as Nazi Germany slaughtered millions of Jews and others. Lowry's choice to write a historically accurate text allows a ray of hope into this dark discussion.

Again, Ellen wants to know about her necklace. It's important to her especially because it was a gift from her father, and so it carries an important personal significance beyond faith.

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