Number the Stars

by

Lois Lowry

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Kirsti Johansen Character Analysis

Kirsti is Annemarie’s five-year-old sister. A sassy, petulant, and fanciful child, Kirsti has never known life outside wartime—yet she dreams of the comforts of peace and plenty, fantasizing daily about decadent cupcakes and fancy shoes. Kirsti is naïve, and her family attempts to keep her sheltered from the truths of the violent world she lives in by telling her stories—explaining that the bombings in the harbor are fireworks launched specially for her birthday or lulling her to sleep with fairy tales. Kirsti provides a thread of comic relief throughout the novel, and her cuteness, resilience, and pure view of the world gives the other characters hope in a time of fear and confusion.

Kirsti Johansen Quotes in Number the Stars

The Number the Stars quotes below are all either spoken by Kirsti Johansen or refer to Kirsti Johansen. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Privilege, Sacrifice, and Solidarity  Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Houghton Mifflin edition of Number the Stars published in 1989.
Chapter 1 Quotes

“Mama, is there anything to eat?” Annemarie asked, hoping to take her mother’s mind away from the soldiers.

“Take some bread. And give a piece to your sister.”

“With butter?” Kirsti asked hopefully.

“No butter,” her mother replied. “You know that.”

Kirsti sighed as Annemarie went to the breadbox in the kitchen. “I wish I could have a cupcake,” she said. “A big yellow cupcake, with pink frosting.”

Her mother laughed. “For a little girl, you have a long memory,” she told Kirsti. “There hasn’t been any butter, or sugar for cupcakes, for a long time. A year, at least.”

“When will there be cupcakes again?”

“When the war ends,” Mrs. Johansen said. She glanced through the window, down to the street corner where the soldiers stood, their faces impassive beneath the metal helmets. “When the soldiers leave.”

Related Characters: Annemarie Johansen (speaker), Kirsti Johansen (speaker), Mrs. Johansen/Mama (speaker)
Page Number: 9-10
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 2 Quotes

Redheaded Peter, her sister’s fiancé, had not married anyone in the years since Lise’s death. He had changed a great deal. Once he had been like a fun-loving older brother to Annemarie and Kirsti, teasing and tickling, always a source of foolishness and pranks. Now he still stopped by the apartment often, and his greetings to the girls were warm and smiling, but he was usually in a hurry, talking quickly to Mama and Papa about things Annemarie didn’t understand. He no longer sang the nonsense songs that had once made Annemarie and Kirsti shriek with laughter. And he never lingered anymore.

Papa had changed, too. He seemed much older and very tired, defeated.

The whole world had changed. Only the fairy tales remained the same.

“And they lived happily ever after,” Annemarie recited, whispering into the dark, completing the tale for her sister, who slept beside her, one thumb in her mouth.

Page Number: 17
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 4 Quotes

Alone in the apartment while Mama was out shopping with Kirsti, Annemarie and Ellen were sprawled on the living room floor playing with paper dolls. They had cut the dolls from Mama’s magazines, old ones she had saved from past years. The paper ladies had old-fashioned hair styles and clothes, and the girls had given them names from Mama’s very favorite book. Mama had told Annemarie and Ellen the entire story of Gone With the Wind, and the girls thought it much more interesting and romantic than the king-and-queen tales that Kirsti loved.

“Come, Melanie,” Annemarie said, walking her doll across the edge of the rug. “Let’s dress for the ball.”

“All right, Scarlett, I’m coming,” Ellen replied in a sophisticated voice. She was a talented performer; she often played the leading roles in school dramatics. Games of the imagination were always fun when Ellen played.

Related Characters: Annemarie Johansen (speaker), Ellen Rosen (speaker), Kirsti Johansen, Mrs. Johansen/Mama
Page Number: 27
Explanation and Analysis:

Annemarie grinned and walked her Scarlett toward the chair that Ellen had designated as Tivoli. She loved Tivoli Gardens, in the heart of Copenhagen; her parents had taken her there, often, when she was a little girl. She remembered the music and the brightly colored lights, the carousel and ice cream and especially the magnificent fireworks in the evenings: the huge colored splashes and bursts of lights in the evening sky.

“I remember the fireworks best of all,” she commented to Ellen.

“Me too,” Kirsti said. “I remember the fireworks.”

“Silly,” Annemarie scoffed. “You never saw the fireworks.” Tivoli Gardens was closed now. The German occupation forces had burned part of it, perhaps as a way of punishing the fun-loving Danes for their lighthearted pleasures.

Kirsti drew herself up, her small shoulders stiff. “I did too,” she said belligerently. “It was my birthday. I woke up in the night and I could hear the booms. And there were lights in the sky. Mama said it was fireworks for my birthday!”

Then Annemarie remembered. Kirsti’s birthday was late in August. And that night, only a month before, she, too, had been awakened and frightened by the sound of explosions. Kirsti was right—the sky in the southeast had been ablaze, and Mama had comforted her by calling it a birthday celebration.

Related Characters: Annemarie Johansen (speaker), Kirsti Johansen (speaker), Ellen Rosen, Mrs. Johansen/Mama
Page Number: 30-31
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 14 Quotes

“So little Red Riding-Hood carried the basket of food and hurried along through the woods. It was a lovely morning, and birds were singing. Little Red Riding-Hood sang, too, as she walked.”

Sometimes she changed that part of the story, telling it to Kirsti. Sometimes it was raining, or even snowing, in the woods. Sometimes it was evening, with long, frightening shadows, so that Kirsti, listening, would snuggle closer and wrap her arms around Annemarie. But now, telling it to herself, she wanted sunlight and bird song.

Related Characters: Annemarie Johansen (speaker), Kirsti Johansen
Page Number: 109
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 15 Quotes

Annemarie’s mind raced. She remembered what her mother had said. “If anyone stops you, you must pretend to be nothing more than a silly little girl.”

She stared at the soldiers. She remembered how she had stared at the others, frightened, when they had stopped her on the street.

Kirsti hadn’t been frightened. Kirsti had been—well, nothing more than a silly little girl, angered because the soldier had touched her hair that after noon. She had known nothing of danger, and the soldier had been amused by her.

Annemarie willed herself, with all her being, to behave as Kirsti would.

“Good morning,” she said carefully to the soldiers.

Related Characters: Annemarie Johansen (speaker), Kirsti Johansen, Mrs. Johansen/Mama
Page Number: 113
Explanation and Analysis:
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Number the Stars PDF

Kirsti Johansen Character Timeline in Number the Stars

The timeline below shows where the character Kirsti Johansen appears in Number the Stars. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: Why Are You Running?
Sisterhood Theme Icon
...at school, Ellen acquiesces, and the two take off down the sidewalk. Annemarie’s little sister Kirsti, who has been walking with them, asks them to wait up, but the older girls... (full context)
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...just schoolgirls having fun on their way home. One of the soldiers tries to touch Kirsti’s blonde hair, stating that she reminds him of his own daughter back in Germany, but... (full context)
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Annemarie, Ellen, and Kirsti arrive back at the apartment building where they all live. Ellen tells Annemarie how scared... (full context)
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...of upsetting them. Ellen goes into her apartment on the second floor, and Annemarie and Kirsti head up to their apartment on the third floor. Kirsti bursts in the door and... (full context)
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Hearing Kirsti’s story, Mrs. Rosen becomes frightened, and asks where Ellen is—Annemarie assures her that Ellen is... (full context)
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...a snack, and Mama tells her there’s some bread, though they can’t spare any butter. Kirsti sighs and says she wants a “big yellow cupcake with pink frosting,” but Mama laughs... (full context)
Chapter 2: Who is the Man Who Rides Past?
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That night, in the bed they share, Kirsti begs Annemarie to tell her a story. Stories, and fairy tales especially, are important to... (full context)
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...have grown tired and “defeated.” Annemarie’s whole world has changed—only the fairy tales she and Kirsti tell have “remained the same.” (full context)
Chapter 3: Where Is Mrs. Hirsch?
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As the month of September passes by, Annemarie, Ellen, and Kirsti are careful to take the long way to school and back, avoiding the two soldiers... (full context)
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...while getting the girls ready for school, Mama notices that a button on one of Kirsti’s sweater has broken. She tells Annemarie to stop by the button shop around the corner... (full context)
Chapter 4: It Will Be a Long Night
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...the Wind, a story they love but see as more sophisticated than the “king-and-queen tales” Kirsti loves. Ellen is a talented actress, always featured in school productions, and dreams of making... (full context)
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Her mood lifted, Kirsti excitedly joins the game of paper dolls, and the game’s imaginary story transitions from America... (full context)
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...mother with preparations for the upcoming Jewish New Year on Thursday. Ellen invites Annemarie and Kirsti over to celebrate and light candles for the New Year—the girls often spend Friday nights... (full context)
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...hushed and hurriedly with Mama. Mama comes back into the apartment and tells Annemarie and Kirsti that Ellen is going to come stay with them for a few days. Annemarie points... (full context)
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...mood, Annemarie can tell that they, too, are worried. After dinner, Mama and Papa send Kirsti to bed, and sit Annemarie and Ellen down so that Annemarie can learn the truth.... (full context)
Chapter 5: Who is the Dark-Haired One?
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...officer and points out the names written at the bottom of each—they are of Annemarie, Kirsti, and the real Lise, who had dark hair as a baby. (full context)
Chapter 6: Is the Weather Good for Fishing?
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Annemarie, Ellen, Kirsti, and Mama make their way by train north along the Danish coast. The trip is... (full context)
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...seaside air, they feel relieved to be away from the soldiers—but still anxious. Mama, Ellen, Kirsti, and Annemarie begin the walk to Uncle Henrik’s house, and Mrs. Johansen remarks on how... (full context)
Chapter 7: The House by the Sea
Privilege, Sacrifice, and Solidarity  Theme Icon
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...house, Ellen is stunned by how beautiful the farmhouse and surrounding meadow are. Mama and Kirsti go in to rest, but Annemarie and Ellen enjoy a run through the meadow and... (full context)
Chapter 8: There Has Been a Death
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...is still asleep, and Annemarie dresses quietly so as not to rouse her friend. Downstairs, Kirsti is feeding a stray kitten she’s brought in from the meadow from a bowl of... (full context)
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Annemarie, Ellen, and Kirsti play outside together all day long. They spend time petting the cow, Blossom, and romp... (full context)
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...begin discussing “preparations” for something, Annemarie grows curious about what’s happening. Henrik turns to Annemarie, Kirsti, and Ellen and tells him that there has been a death in the family. Great-aunt... (full context)
Chapter 9: Why Are You Lying?
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Uncle Henrik reveals that there is no Great-aunt Brite—he and Mama have lied to Annemarie, Kirsti, and Ellen to “help [them] to be brave.” He tells Annemarie that for this reason,... (full context)
Privilege, Sacrifice, and Solidarity  Theme Icon
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...gleaming casket into the house and set it in the middle of the living room. Kirsti is asleep upstairs, but Ellen and Annemarie sit up in the living room with Mama... (full context)
Chapter 12: Where Was Mama?
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...already returned and gone straight to bed, but Mama’s room is empty. She then checks Kirsti’s room, but her sister is fast asleep alone in her bed. Annemarie goes to the... (full context)
Chapter 14: On the Dark Path
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...through the woods, imagining herself as Little Red Riding-Hood—a story she has often told to Kirsti at bedtime. At the same time, walking the familiar road, she remembers the story Mama... (full context)
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...hearing noises, and thinks of how, when telling the story of Little Red Riding-Hood to Kirsti, she always makes sure to draw out the part where Little Red runs into the... (full context)
Chapter 15: My Dogs Smell Meat!
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...“silly little girl” should she run into any Nazis. She tries to imagine herself as Kirsti on the day the two of them and Ellen ran into soldiers on the street—a... (full context)
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...are looking at her basket and growling with hunger. She tries to think of how Kirsti would respond to the fear and danger of the moment, and decides to chatter on... (full context)
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...piece of cheese. They taunt her for not bringing her uncle any meat—Annemarie, thinking like Kirsti, petulantly responds that the German army “eats all of Denmark’s meat.” Annemarie’s sassiness is just... (full context)
Chapter 16: I Will Tell You Just a Little
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...been to see Mama, and her broken ankle is wrapped up in a cast. Little Kirsti, uninterested in the story about the cow, speaks up to ask when Ellen will be... (full context)
Chapter 17: All This Long Time
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...her family’s apartment, looks around at those she loves. Mama is crying happy tears, while Kirsti—“taller, more serious, and very thin”—happily waves a Danish flag. Papa is happy, too, but there... (full context)