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Number the Stars


Ten-year-old Annemarie Johansen lives in Nazi-occupied Denmark. She knows what a world is like with soldiers on every street corner. And she knows simple things about how to avoid detection, such as not running through the street. Nazi soldiers on every street corner is scary enough … but Nazi soldiers banging on the front door is much, much worse. See, it wasn’t until her parents took in her best friend, Ellen Rosen, that Annemarie realized just how scary Nazi soldiers could really be. But one night, they did come knocking, leaving the Johansen’s to pretend that Ellen wasn’t really Jewish, but another daughter. Then, the real danger began as the family has to risk everything to get Ellen’s family out of Nazi-occupied Denmark and into the safety of neutral Sweden.

Just as In My Hands was presented in the Polish Resistance post instead of the Poland in WWII post, so Number the Stars finds itself being presented in the Danish Resistance post. And, as mentioned in Danish Resistance post, for those of us who grew up in the 1990’s, Number the Stars was likely amongst our introduction to the horror known as the Holocaust.

But if that worries you some, don’t be. First off, this is a novel written for grade school children. And, it tells an important story about a very important period in history. Furthermore, teaching history at an early age if of supreme importance.

As touched on briefly in our One Eye Laughing, the Other Weeping post, my first experience with historical fiction was way back in 1st grade, when my mom bought me a box set of the Meet book for each American Girl that was out at that time. Now, back then, American Girl/Pleasant Company was about teaching school-age girls what it was like to live in different time periods. The books were the center of the universe and the dolls just companions. Like those books, Number the Stars teaches us what it was like to be a little girl under Nazi (or Soviet in other cases) oppression.

It gave us, as young children, the understanding the Gestapo and SS – or Nazis in general – were to be feared, but there certainly was not the terror found in YA or adult novels.

Really, though, Number the Stars is a touching picture of one family who risks their lives to get a Jewish family out of Nazi-occupied Denmark and into free Sweden. It taught us that even little children can resist against oppression.

Number the Stars is a well-written novel about what it was like to live in Denmark in the 1940’s. If you want a novel about what it was like to live in Denmark without the horror you may find in books for older age groups, than Number the Stars is a good place to start.

Genre: Historical Fiction

Classification: Children’s


Featured in Danish Resistance

Goodreads: Number the Stars


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The Love That I Have

Margot Baumann is sent to work in Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. In the mail room. One of her main jobs is to collect letters being sent out by the inmates and destroying them.

But it doesn’t take long for Margot, who’s one brother is suffering in a Soviet camp, knows full-well the horror that families back home feel as they await news of their missing loved ones. This aching feeling prompts her to return a favor she hopes some girl near Stalingrad will do for her – allow some of the letters to be posted along so that she can learn the fate of her beloved Walther.

As she starts going through the smuggled letters, she finds one addressed to a Margot Lipsky. The coincidence of the shared name is just too much for Margot. Not only that, but the letter is by far the most beautiful thing she has ever read. She cannot stop herself from posing as Margot Lipsky and writing back.

But, of course, by writing back to this Dieter Kleinschmidt, she has bitten off more than she can chew, so to speak. Because suddenly, just writing to Dieter isn’t enough. Margot needs to keep Dieter alive – if not for the Margot she thinks she loves, but for herself. And then Dieter drops his own bombshell, he has known all along that the Margot responding to his letters is not his Margot. Now that Dieter and Margot both know the truth about the letters, Margot feels all the more determined to keep Dieter alive, no matter what it will cost her.

Then as the war draws to a close and the prisoners of Sachsenhausen are marched away from camp as the Allied approach grows nearer and nearer, the tables have suddenly turned. Sachsenhausen is still a death camp; one run by the Soviets and not the Germans. Now, Dieter must find a way to keep Margot alive.

The Love That I Have tells that horrors of the camp, but it also shows that even in the worst of circumstances, the best of humanity can still shine through. A German girl, despite her previous belief in Nazi propaganda, learns to see through it. She learns to love despite the divisions the Germans and Soviets have placed in society. Yet Margot pays an unspeakable price for her crime of working in the camp, meaning that not only must she learn to love others, but she must learn to forgive and love herself.

The Love That I Have is definitely one of the best Holocaust novels I’ve read. It tells of Sachsenhausen under German command and Soviet command. It tugs at the heartstrings while showing that love can present itself even in Nazi Germany.

Just a fair warning, The Love That I Have is an Australian novel, and not easily obtained in America. I found my copy on ebay.

Genre: Historical Fiction

Classification: YA


Featured in Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp

Goodreads: The Love That I Have

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The Kennedy Debutante

The Kennedy Debutante (2018) tells the story of Kennedy’s younger sister, Kathleen “Kick” Kennedy, starting when the family moved to England when their father became ambassador in the late ‘30s.

While there, Kick gets the privilege of being presented into society. And this is just the beginning of her whirlwind tour of English society. She meets Billy Hartington, the future Duke of Devonshire and begins to fall in love. And what a coo that would be, her the daughter of an Irish-American father. But Kick’s family is so very Catholic and Billy’s very much Protestant, being of English nobility.

Kick thinks these are the worst of her problems, but every day the war draws closer and closer to England as Hitler crusades to take over all of Europe. (Well, him and Stalin).

All around her family, signs of war are drawing closer. Air raid shelters are being built and the talk everywhere is of whether England should come to the rescue of the Europeans or remain neutral. Then, all too soon, the news comes that Poland has been invaded. Kick’s cushy English life as the daughter of the American ambassador falls apart . She’s quickly torn away from everyone and everything in England as she and all of her siblings are shipped back to America and – in most cases – off to school.

But not Kick. After getting that taste of life in England, she’s not about to give it all up to fulfill her mother’s dream of her attending a Catholic college and falling in love with a good wealthy Catholic young man. So she heads off to Washington to become a reporter, instead. But her thoughts are constantly on England and Billy. She is bound and determined to find a way back, with or without her parents’ blessings.

Then, of course, the war hits America as well. Both Joe and Jack and long since enlisted in the Navy and both are anxious to head out and prove themselves by defending their country. Meanwhile, Billy is talking of life on the front lines. And, yet, she’s still stuck in America.

When all else seems to fail, Kick decides that she, too, can serve her country – even if it means donning a uniform, herself. Finally, after four long years, she finds herself back in England. But this time, not as the daughter of the American ambassador, but as part of the American Red Cross.

Yet absolutely nothing has really been settled with Billy Hartington, except for their love for each other. Billy is still Protestant and in line to be Duke. And is still very much an Irish-American Catholic. They certainly cannot marry without one of them breaking with their Church.

Eventually, Kick and Billy decide that they will not allow their different religions to stand in their way. But it’s too late for a happy marriage because, as always, the war gets in the way, first claiming Joe’s life, then Billy’s. The war has managed to take just about everything that was most important to her.

The Kennedy Debutante is definitely a fun novel if you want to more about President Kennedy’s family, or in particular his favorite sister, Kick. He and Joe do make a few appearances, but the novel is about Kick, predominately about her falling in love with Billy Hartington. Overall, it was an enjoyable read and it was actually easy to relate Kick and her hopes and dreams. I gave the novel 4 stars, mostly because of some glaring inaccuracies, mostly regarding her siblings. 

Genre: Historical Fiction

Classification: Adult

Setting: England & America


Goodreads: The Kennedy Debutante


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