I just finished reading Number the Stars by Lois Lowry. My students read this book in their class last year and loved it. They told me that I had to read it because it was one of the best books ever. Honestly, I think they pumped it up too much because while I thought it was good, they got my expectations too high and I wasn’t floored as I expected to be.
But then of course, being a teacher and all, I turned it into a learning experience. I tried to pick apart why they liked it so much to give me some insight on my own book. So here goes:
1. There is a good amount of action.
2. A kid saves the day.
3. The adults let the kid know some adult secrets, which means the reader knows too. I don’t think kids can resist knowing adult secrets.
4. A main theme is friendship, which of course everybody can relate to.
I find this interesting because these are very different from the reasons why I liked the book, which is mostly the historical point of view. The story is about a little girl living in Denmark during WWII and under German occupation. Her best friend is Jewish and her family sneaks them away to Sweden. In all my history classes as a history major, I never heard or read anything about the Danish experience during WWII.
My final conclusions: My students liked the idea of kids getting involved in the action and helping adults and saving the day. I don’t think these will fit into the current novel I’m working on, but it’s something to keep in mind. While cultural and historical backgrounds are not as important to kids, adults like it and teachers can always emphasize it if the book is read in class.