Lois Lowry: Number the Stars
And I set the book in Denmark because that’s a place where people made choices, as it happens, that were difficult and, what would the word be, showed such enormous integrity. And it was really the only place, at that time, where such choices were made, and there were a number of reasons for that, of course. But it was a wonderful thing to be able to portray for kids this true story, the characters, of course, in Number the Stars, are fictional, I made the people up, but they represent real people who lived then and made those choices then and did those things then, and to show kids that here was a time when people, like them, real people, stood up for what was right and made decisions that were world changing.
Number the Stars, I already had the photograph, which eventually we used on the cover of the book. That was a photograph that I had taken back when I worked as a photographer of a Swedish child, but she had that wonderful Scandinavian look.
And so my thought was, I had photographs on my mind, and my thought was that I would use that photograph, tear it in half, it makes me cringe now thinking of tearing that beautiful face in half, but that could be the cover of the book, the torn photograph with the imprint of a soldiers boot across it. That turned out not to be what the book designer decided to do, but I had in mind the children’s photographs. And that’s why, when the soldiers were in the apartment, I had the father go to the photograph album. And of course, it became part of the plot that they could use that device, they could use those photographs to fool the soldiers into believing that the dark-haired child was one of their own.
So for example, I had created Annemarie Johansen in my mind, and there I placed her on a street in Copenhagen, where I knew she would be, and I began to move her around, doing the things a person like her would do.
So when a child describes later a chapter as a cliffhanger, as for example in Number the Stars, when a chapter ends with let’s open the coffin, and of course you want to read what will happen next. Well, picture me writing it. When I wrote, let’s open the coffin, I was excited to find out the next day, when I went back to my desk, what they were going to find when they opened that coffin.