"Number the Stars," Vocabulary from Chapters 9-13

A little girl shows bravery and ingenuity in "Number the Stars" by Lois Lowry, a fictional account of the rescue of the Danish Jews from the fate of the Holocaust.

Learn these word lists for the novel: Chapters 1-4, Chapters 5-8, Chapters 9-13, Chapters 14-17, Introduction and Afterword

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. poised
    marked by balance or equilibrium and readiness for action
    The God of Thunder sat alertly poised nearby, watching.
    "The God of Thunder" is an epithet ("descriptive phrase") for Thor. A part of Denmark's Norse heritage, "Thor" here is Kirsti's name for a kitten. Annemarie finds that funny because the kitten looks like it'd run from thunder. There could also be a symbolic meaning since Thor is seen as the protector of humanity, and the kitten appears in scenes leading up to Peter and Uncle Henrik helping Jews to escape the Nazis.
  2. deft
    skillful in physical movements; especially of the hands
    His strong hands continued, deftly pressing like a pulse against the cow.
  3. dismayed
    struck with fear, dread, or consternation
    She was startled. And dismayed. It was a question she did not want to be asked. When she asked it of herself, she didn’t like her own answer.
    "Fear," "dread" ("fearful expectation or anticipation"), and "consternation" ("fear resulting from the awareness of danger") are all synonymous emotions that Annemarie feels because Uncle Henrik had just asked her, "How brave are you?" Usually, that question is followed by something dangerous, and in this case, it is lying to Nazi soldiers (twice), so that the escape plan would work.
  4. wry
    humorously sarcastic or mocking
    “It is the hearse,” he said. “It is Great-aunt Birte, who never was.” He smiled wryly.
  5. solemn
    dignified and somber in manner or character
    The hearse had gone, and the solemn-faced men who had carried the casket indoors had gone with it, after speaking quietly to Uncle Henrik.
  6. reluctant
    not eager
    Kirsti had gone to bed reluctantly, complaining that she wanted to stay up with the others, that she was grownup enough, that she had never before seen a dead person in a closed-up box, that it wasn’t fair.
  7. gnarled
    old and twisted and covered in lines
    He stared beyond the gnarled apple tree into the darkness.
  8. recurring
    coming back
    She heard—as if in a recurring nightmare—the pounding on the door, and then the heavy, frighteningly familiar staccato of boots on the kitchen floor.
  9. condescending
    characteristic of those who treat others with arrogance
    He placed one gloved hand on its lid. “Poor Great-aunt Birte,” he said, in a condescending voice.
    "Condescension" means "showing arrogance by patronizing those considered inferior" or "a communication that indicates lack of respect"--both fit the action and attitude of the officer (whose higher rank would make more people seem inferior to him), who believes he can barge into a funeral, who is being disrespectful with his hand on the lid, and who is expressing fake sadness for a woman he never knew and suspects does not exist.
  10. linger
    remain present although waning or gradually dying
    Surely typhus germs wouldn’t linger in a dead person!
  11. extinguish
    put out, as of fires, flames, or lights
    He relit the extinguished candle.
  12. bind
    wrap around with something so as to cover or enclose
    It is he who heals the broken in spirit
    and binds up their wounds,
    he who numbers the stars one by one.
  13. speckle
    mark with small spots
    Outside, she knew, the sky was speckled with stars. How could anyone number them one by one, as the psalm said? There were too many. The sky was too big.
  14. rummage
    search haphazardly
    After a moment of rummaging through the folded things, he found a smaller winter jacket, and handed it to Ellen.
  15. shabby
    showing signs of wear and tear
    Never had Ellen worn anything so shabby and old.
  16. plead
    appeal or request earnestly
    The mother tightened her arms around the baby and looked up at Peter, pleading. “Please, no,” she said. “She always sleeps all night. Please, she doesn’t need it, I promise. She won’t cry.”
  17. assemble
    collect in one place
    He looked around the room, at the assembled people now dressed in the bulky winter clothing, and then motioned to Mr. Rosen, who followed him to the hall.
  18. protrude
    bulge outward
    Annemarie could see it protruding from Mr. Rosen’s pocket when he returned to the room and sat down again.
  19. occasionally
    now and then or here and there
    Annemarie realized that it was the first time that she had heard Peter Neilsen call her mother by her first name; before, it had always been “Mrs. Johansen”; or, in the old days, during the merriment and excitement of his engagement to Lise, it had been, occasionally, “Mama.”
  20. commotion
    a disorderly outburst or tumult
    There was a slight commotion outside the door, and Mama went quickly to look out.
  21. misshapen
    so badly formed or distorted as to be ugly
    Annemarie looked at the Rosens, sitting there, wearing the misshapen, ill-fitting clothing, holding ragged blankets folded in their arms, their faces drawn and tired.
  22. falter
    walk unsteadily
    Her foot caught the loose step and she faltered for a moment, righting herself, then dashed across the ground to the place where her mother lay.
  23. wince
    draw back, as with fear or pain
    She winced in pain.
  24. sprawling
    an ungainly posture with arms and legs spread about
    “Can you believe it? I was very nearly here—well, maybe just halfway—when I tripped over a root and went sprawling.”
    The definition is for "sprawling" as a noun, but the example sentence is using the word as a verb. The definition for the verb "sprawl" is "sit or lie with one's limbs spread out" but this is missing the key adjective "ungainly" ("lacking grace in movement"). Mama is embarrassed about tripping, which forced her to sprawl; and she is more embarrassed by its result: "Your proper mama, crawling inch by inch! I probably looked like a drunkard!"
  25. stricken
    grievously affected especially by disease
    Her face was stricken.
    Mama's ankle is grievously affected by a swelling, and her stricken face could be partly due to physical pain, but it is mostly because of her realization that the fallen packet means that the escape could be doomed.

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