"Number the Stars," Vocabulary from Chapters 14-17

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. scamper
    run or move about quickly or lightly
    Annemarie heard a small noise—a squirrel perhaps, or a rabbit, scampering nearby.
  2. churning
    (of a liquid) agitated vigorously; in a state of turbulence
    She could hear the churning sea beyond, and see the wash of daylight to the east, over Sweden.
    The setting of this scene is important because 1) the sea is the escape route to Sweden and 2) the sea's churning waves parallel the emotional churning inside Annemarie as she runs through the woods to deliver the packet, with the fears that she might not get there on time and that her mission might be discovered by Nazi soldiers.
  3. segment
    one of the parts into which something naturally divides
    She ran as fast as she could, searching with her eyes for the place ahead where the path would re-enter the woods in its final segment, which led to town.
  4. brusque
    marked by rude or peremptory shortness
    The local doctor was an old man, brusque and businesslike, though with kind eyes.
  5. rustling
    a light noise, like leaves blowing in the wind
    “Suddenly, as Little Red Riding-Hood walked through the woods, she heard a noise. She heard a rustling in the bushes.”
  6. tantalize
    harass with persistent teasing or baiting
    Annemarie always tried to prolong this part, to build up the suspense and tantalize her sister.
    In telling the story of "Little Red Riding Hood" to Kirsti, Annemarie doesn't harass, criticize or carp (Kirsti is the one who carps with trivial objections). "Tantalize" means "to tease or torment by presenting something desirable to the view but continually keeping it out of reach"--this is what Annemarie does to Kirsti (Kirsti knows the story), and what the author Lowry is doing to her readers by prolonging this part through the woods.
  7. taut
    pulled or drawn tight
    With them, straining at taut leashes, were two large dogs, their eyes glittering, their lips curled.
  8. consume
    eat immoderately
    They consumed it, each snapping at the bread and gulping it so that it was gone in an instant.
  9. exasperated
    greatly annoyed; out of patience
    Annemarie gave an exasperated sigh. “Could I go now, please?” she asked impatiently.
  10. withering
    wreaking or capable of wreaking complete destruction
    Annemarie gave him a withering look.
    "Withering" is used as an adjective here, but it is closer to the definitions of the verb "wither" ("shrink" or "lose freshness, vigor, or vitality"). Faced with soldiers, Annemarie is neither capable of nor wishing to wreak complete destruction; rather, she is trying to act like an angry Kirsti with a look meant to shame and push the soldiers back a little, so that they would not sense her fear and look under the napkin.
  11. insolent
    marked by casual disrespect
    “You know we have no meat,” she said insolently. “Your army eats all of Denmark’s meat.”
  12. implore
    call upon in supplication
    Please, please, she implored in her mind. Don’t lift the napkin.
  13. contempt
    open disrespect for a person or thing
    “Your uncle has a pretty little lunch,” the soldier said scornfully, crumpling the napkin around the cheese in his hand. “Like a woman,” he added, with contempt.
  14. caustic
    harsh or corrosive in tone
    He gestured with the folded white cloth and gave a short, caustic laugh.
  15. subside
    wear off or die down
    The dogs lunged, sniffed at it eagerly, then subsided, disappointed again.
  16. strident
    unpleasantly loud and harsh
    She put them into the basket and ran around the bend toward the harbor, where the morning sky was now bright with early sun and some of the boat engines were starting their strident din.
  17. quavering
    (of the voice) quivering as from weakness or fear
    “Mama sent your lunch,” she said, her voice quavering.
  18. hastily
    in a hurried manner
    There was a note, hastily written, from Mama, that the doctor was taking her in his car to the local hospital, that they would be back soon.
  19. concealed
    not accessible to view
    The hiding places are carefully concealed, and often we pile dead fish on the deck as well.
  20. confront
    oppose, as in hostility or a competition
    Annemarie remembered the shiny boots confronting her on the dark path.
  21. resistance
    group action in opposition to those in power
    Peter, and others in the Resistance who work with him, bring them to me, and to the other fishermen as well. There are people who hide them and help them, along the way to Gilleleje.
    "Resistance" also means "the action of opposing something that you disagree with"--both definitions need to be combined for a more accurate description of the Danish Resistance, who were organized to oppose the Nazis not simply because they were abusing their power and occupying their country, but also because the Nazis were committing crimes against the Jews that the Danes did not agree with.
  22. complicated
    difficult to analyze or understand
    “That won’t happen. For reasons of their own, the Nazis want Sweden to remain free. It is very complicated.”
  23. devastate
    overwhelm or overpower
    But Annemarie forced herself to think of her redheaded almost-brother, and how devastating the day was when they received the news that Peter had been captured and executed by the Germans in the public square at Ryvangen, in Copenhagen.
  24. bleak
    providing no shelter or sustenance
    Later, Annemarie had gone to the place with her parents and they had laid flowers there, on the bleak, numbered ground.
    "Bleak" also means "unpleasantly cold and damp," which along with the chosen definition, could be a fitting description of the physical ground in which the Nazis buried the bodies of the young men they had executed. "Bleak" ("offering little or no hope") could also describe the effect that all the numbered and unnamed graves, especially Peter's, has on Annemarie and her parents.
  25. gleam
    shine brightly, like a star or a light
    The little Star of David still gleamed gold.

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