Lois Lowry, the author of numerous children’s books, recently received a letter from a teacher at the Taurus American College in Taurus Turkey informing her that her book Number the Stars was banned by the government.
“Last week the inspectors from the Turkish Department of Education came to our school and after reading one paragraph of your book, Number the Stars, banned the book at our school.”
Lois Lowry fans were outraged, along with a slew of librarians and teachers. There were calls to contact the National Coalition Against Censorship and the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom. Officials at the at the US Consulate in Adana found that the book is still at the library and available on the shelves. After all this came out, the inspectors stated that they questioned whether young children in primary schools should be involved in subjects with strong religious or political connotations.
After reading about this controversy, first in School Library Journal, and then on Lois Lowry's website, my curiosity got the best of me and I bought a copy of Number the Stars to read since I never read it before.
Number the Stars is rooted in the Holocaust and tells the little known true story of the evacuation of Jews from Nazi-held Denmark. Lois Lowry is able to instill the fear of the Nazi occupation, the struggles of not only the Jews in Denmark, but of all the Danish people, and the courage of the Danish resistance in a mere 132 pages. It's a story of courage and of friendship as two little girls, one Jewish and one non-Jewish, who don't understand all the hatred are thrown into a war that makes no sense to anyone around them. One of the friends, Annemarie, is determined to save her Jewish friend, Ellen, from the Nazi's. Lois Lowry is a wonderful writer and even though this is written for ages 9 - 12, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. The story was actually gripping at times, and a good introduction to the tragedy of the Holocaust. Though the reader isn't bombarded with images of Nazi concentration camps and there are only subtle subtle references to the goings on in other countries, the wrongness of the occupation and the unjust persecution of the Jewish people is plainly evident as the story unfolds. Even a simple question subtly drives home a point,
"What harm is a button shop? Mrs. Hirsch is such a nice lady."
The afterward in the book describes the history Number The Stars is actually based on, and the story is fascinating. Nearly 7000 people, almost the entire Jewish population of Denmark, were smuggled across the sea to Sweden. Swedish scientists worked on a special powder made up of dried rabbits blood and cocaine which if sniffed by the search dogs would numb the sense of smell and thus prevent detection of people hidden away in the boats.
If you haven't read Number The Stars by Lois Lowry, I would encourage you to read it. It's a wonderfully written story about a sensitive subject, but written from the perspective of a little girl. Sometimes the innocence of a child can teach us amazing lessons...
*P.S. This Book is Kindle Ready! And it's a bargain at $4.40!