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Number the Stars | Study Guide

Lois Lowry

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Number the Stars | Chapter 9 : Why Are You Lying? | Summary



After supper, Annemarie goes outside to the barn to talk to Uncle Henrik, who is milking Blossom the cow. She confronts him. "You are lying to me. You and Mama both." He continues to milk, acknowledging she is angry. Annemarie continues on: "But I know there is no Great-Aunt Birte."

When he finishes the milking he asks, "How brave are you, little Annemarie?" She denies she is, but Henrik argues he thinks she is like him and her parents. "Frightened, but determined, and if the time came to be brave, I am quite sure you would be very, very brave." Despite this, he tells her it is easier to be brave when you don't know everything. Annemarie thinks back to the day she met the soldiers, and she decides Henrik is right. He tells her they have lied to her, but they did so to help her be brave. Henrik hears a sound outside and stiffens up. He realizes the hearse has arrived, telling Annemarie with a smile it is carrying "Great-Aunt Birte, who never was."

More and more guests arrive as the night goes on. Annemarie and her mother prepare food, but Annemarie notices none of the guests brought food, not like at Lise's funeral. No one spoke, as there was no Great-Aunt Birte to speak of. Henrik worries that it is getting late, but then Peter Neilsen arrives along with Ellen's parents.


This chapter continues to increase the tension, but it also continues the theme of bravery. Uncle Henrik responds to Annemarie's recognition of the lies she's being told with an explanation, rather than denial or excuses. Part of being brave, according to the way the topic is handled in the novel, is ignorance. Not knowing everything enables people to be more courageous. Henrik points out they lie, not because they doubt her but because it makes bravery easier. This is underlined when he confirms he has faith in her—"If the time came to be brave, I am quite sure you would be very, very brave," he tells her.

The memory of Lise resurfaces here again. Her funeral, which was three years before, was different. There, as with many memorials, guests told stories. They remembered the dead by celebrating their lives. For the fictional Great-Aunt Birte, this isn't possible because she never existed. The silence of the gathering also points to the real reason the guests are there. They are persecuted by the Nazis, and they have fled from their homes, businesses, and synagogues. To be sure the reader realizes these visiting guests are all Jews, the chapter ends with the arrival of Ellen's parents—and of Peter, who, the reader knows, often brings news of the Resistance and an underground Resistance newspaper. The funeral is a ruse to fool the Germans; the gathering is really a Resistance activity. All of this we see through the eyes of a young girl who is proud she understands what is going on.

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