In the fourth chapter of Number the Stars, Kirsti and Mrs. Johansen return home from a shopping trip. Kirsti is in tears over the new pair of shoes that they just bought for her. Because of wartime restrictions, there is no leather for shoes is available in Denmark. Instead of leather, Kirsti's new shoes are made out of fish skin. They are also green, a color that Kirsti abhors. She is afraid that she will be humiliated at school if she has to wear them there. Kirsti emphatically declares that she will never wear the shoes under any circumstances.
In an effort to soothe Kirsti's worries, Ellen offers to use some of her father's ink to color the shoes black. This idea calms Kirsti down. She decides that it may improve the shoes' look and her likelihood of wearing them. Ellen tells Kirsti that she will take the shoes home with her that night and ask her father to color them black. Kirsti finally concedes that she might wear them if they can be made shiny and nobody tells anyone that they are made out of fish skin. With Kirsti suitably mollified, Ellen and Annemarie agree to let her play a game.