In the first chapter of Number the Stars we meet Annemarie, her little sister Kristi, and Annemarie's best friend Ellen. Annemarie wants to race Ellen down the street, but Ellen objects, saying she is shorter than Annemarie and she won't have a chance at beating her friend. The girls are laughing and happy having a good time. Annemarie wants to be prepared for the upcoming athletic meet they are having at school on Friday.
"We have to practice for the athletic meet on Friday--I know I'm going to win the girls' race this week. I was second last week, but I've been practicing every day. Come on, Ellen," Annemarie pleaded, eyeing the distance to the next corner of the Copenhagen street. "Please?"
The two girls run along the sidewalk, but are stopped by the German army. They tell the girls to walk and stop acting like hoodlums with all the running. Annemarie is disturbed by her first interaction with the police. It is 1943 and Denmark has been invaded by the Nazis. Little does Annemarie realize this will not be her last run-in with them.