"Number the Stars," Vocabulary from the Introduction and Afterword

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. vibrant
    vigorous and animated
    But Number the Stars seems to have acquired its own long and vibrant life; not a day goes by that I don’t hear from a passionate reader of the book—some of them parents who remember it from their childhood and are now reading it with their own children.
    "Vibrant" also means "of sounds that are strong and resonating" and "of colors that are bright and striking"--these definitions are fitting descriptions of the powerful words and images Lowry created in a novel that was first published in 1989 and continues to this day to come alive in the hands of children and their parents.
  2. protagonist
    the principal character in a work of fiction
    I think readers of every age match themselves against the protagonists of books they love.
  3. ethics
    motivation based on ideas of right and wrong
    And ten—the age of Annemarie in Number the Stars, and the approximate age of most of the book’s readers—is an age when young people are beginning to develop a strong set of personal ethics.
  4. frequently
    many times at short intervals
    And they are beginning to realize that the world they live in is a place where the right thing is often hard, sometimes dangerous, and frequently unpopular.
  5. holocaust
    an act of mass destruction and loss of life
    (As the readers of Number the Stars grow older and read other Holocaust literature, they’ll find that many people in other countries, not Denmark, did just that).
  6. rejoice
    feel happiness or joy
    Young readers rejoice when Annemarie takes a deep breath, enters the woods, faces the danger, stands up to the enemy, and triumphs.
  7. futile
    producing no result or effect
    We all know how easy it is, and how futile, to blame and to hate.
  8. prototype
    a standard or typical example
    The Danish friend who originally told me the story of her childhood in Copenhagen in 1943, and who became the prototype for the fictional Annemarie, is an old woman now.
  9. prejudice
    a partiality preventing objective consideration of an issue
    We both love thinking of the children reading the story today, coming to it for the first time and realizing that once, for a brief time and in a small place, a group of prejudice-free people honored the humanity of others.
  10. dedicate
    inscribe or address by way of compliment
    Annemarie Johansen is a child of my imagination, though she grew there from the stories told to me by my friend Annelise Platt, to whom this book is dedicated, who was herself a child in Copenhagen during the long years of the German occupation.
  11. deprivation
    the disadvantage that results from losing something
    I had always been fascinated and moved by Annelise’s descriptions not only of the personal deprivation that her family and their neighbors suffered during those years, and the sacrifices they made...
  12. integrity
    moral soundness
    ...but even more by the greater picture she drew for me of the courage and integrity of the Danish people under the leadership of the king they loved so much, Christian X.
  13. sorrow
    an emotion of great sadness associated with loss
    So—surely with great sorrow —King Christian surrendered, and overnight the soldiers moved in.
  14. visible
    capable of being seen or open to easy view
    Visible on almost every street corner, always armed and spit-shined, they controlled the newspapers, the rail system, the government, schools, and hospitals, and the day-to-day existence of the Danish people.
  15. fancy
    imagination held to be more casual than true imagination
    It is true that he rode alone on his horse from the palace every morning, unguarded, and greeted his people; and though it seems so charming as to be a flight of author’s fancy, the story that Papa told Annemarie, of the soldier who asked the Danish teenager, “Who is that man?”—that story is recorded in one of the documents that still remain from that time.
  16. compassion
    a deep awareness of and sympathy for another's suffering
    The name of that German was G. F. Duckwitz, and I hope that even today, so many years later, there are flowers on his grave, because he was a man of compassion and courage.
  17. smuggle
    import or export without paying customs duties
    In the weeks following the Jewish New Year, almost the entire Jewish population of Denmark—nearly seven thousand people—was smuggled across the sea to Sweden.
  18. temporarily
    for a limited time only; not permanently
    They created a powerful powder composed of dried rabbit’s blood and cocaine; the blood attracted the dogs, and when they sniffed at it, the cocaine numbed their noses and destroyed, temporarily, their sense of smell.
  19. permeate
    spread or diffuse through
    Almost every boat captain used such a permeated handkerchief, and many lives were saved by the device.
  20. orchestrate
    plan and direct (a complex undertaking)
    The secret operations that saved the Jews were orchestrated by the Danish Resistance, which, like all Resistance movements, was composed mainly of the very young and very brave.
  21. eventually
    after an unspecified period of time or a long delay
    In reading of the Resistance leaders in Denmark, I came across an account of a young man named Kim Malthe-Bruun, who was eventually captured and executed by the Nazis when he was only twenty-one years old.
  22. tactic
    a plan for attaining a particular goal
    I read his story as I had read many others, turning the pages, skimming here and there: this sabotage, that tactic, this capture, that escape.
  23. determination
    firmness of purpose
    But seeing the quiet determination in his boyish eyes made me determined, too, to tell his story, and that of all the Danish people who shared his dreams.
  24. ideal
    model of excellence or perfection of a kind
    . . . and I want you all to remember—that you must not dream yourselves back to the times before the war, but the dream for you all, young and old, must be to create an ideal of human decency, and not a narrow-minded and prejudiced one.
  25. decency
    the quality of conforming to rules of propriety and morality
    Surely that gift—the gift of a world of human decency—is the one that all countries hunger for still.

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