Number the Stars | Study Guide

Lois Lowry

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Number the Stars | Chapter 8 : There Has Been a Death | Summary



Annemarie wakes and slips out of bed so as not to wake Ellen. Downstairs, she finds Kirsti trying to convince the kitten to drink water. Kirsti announces that she has named the kitten: "Thor, for the God of Thunder."

Mrs. Johansen cleans the house, and when Uncle Henrik returns home he says, "Tomorrow will be a day for fishing." Annemarie recognizes the code phrase from her father's call to Henrik. She is further confused when she is told the preparations taking place at the house are because there has been a death, her Great-Aunt Birte. Uncle Henrik tells the girls that Birte's casket will be in the living room: "It is the old custom, you know, for the dead to rest at home, and their loved ones to be with them before the burial." However, Annemarie senses something is wrong here. There was no call about a death, and there is no sadness. Most importantly, she has heard all the family stories and never heard anyone ever mention Great-Aunt Birte.


Lowry interjects humor into the text by way of the kitten. This, like the earlier example of the shoes, is part of the function Kirsti's character has in the novel. She reminds the reader things are bleak at this time, but she sees it through the eyes of a young child and younger sibling. Along with that, however, comes the reality that a child's ability to know when to keep secrets is questionable. Throughout the text, Annemarie and her parents must constantly wonder what Kirsti will do or say.

Here, too, the reader sees the extent of the risk the Danes are taking. Readers will surely realize they are planning to extricate the Jews and this ruse is part of it, and Lowry makes sure to seed the clues so her intended young readers catch on to this. When Annemarie hears: "Tomorrow will be a day for fishing," she recalls the reference to fishing made earlier between Mr. Johansen and Uncle Henrik, thereby drawing readers' attention. She also clarifies "there was no Great-aunt Birte." The reader has the necessary information to feel the increasing tension and suspense, allowing them to more closely identify with Annemarie.

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