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Number the Stars

by Lois Lowry

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Student Question

Compare and contrast life in Copenhagen and Henrik's farm in Number the Stars.

Quick answer:

In Number the Stars, differences between life in Copenhagen and Henrik's farm include that the farm, in the countryside on the North Sea, is more picturesque and quieter. A cow provides daily access to milk and cream, unlike in wartime Copenhagen where fresh food is strictly rationed. Life seems safer on the farm, but this is not really true. If the Nazis discovered Ellen on Uncle Henrik's farm, she would be seized and Annemarie's family would be punished.

Expert Answers

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Life in Copenhagen and on Henrik's farm are different in many ways. For one thing, Ellen generally lives with her family in Copenhagen, although she stays with Annemarie’s family after her parents flee the city.

For another, Henrik's farm is in the countryside, so the usual differences of city life versus rural life are also apparent in the book. For instance, Uncle Henrik's house is located in a clearing beyond the woods, which is probably a much more picturesque scene than that of the apartment building in which Annemarie and Ellen live back in Copenhagen.

The farm is also situated very close to the North Sea, which also calls to mind a much more rural setting than the girls’s urban one in Copenhagen. Annemarie notes that if Ellen stands behind Uncle Henrik's house and looks across the water, she will see Sweden. Because it is set in a more rural, less populated location, the girls hear birds calling outside their window when they wake up at Uncle Henrik’s house and there is an apple tree just outside. In Copenhagen, the many tall buildings and denser population mean that it is not as easy to hear the birds in the morning, nor would they expect to see apple trees lining the streets. They did hear a bird at night in Copenhagen, but that was because it was quiet in the streets because it was nighttime. In the countryside where Uncle Henrik lives, it is generally quieter all the time and they do not hear explosions outside as they did in Copenhagen.

Uncle Henrik keeps a cow on his farm, so he has daily access to milk. By comparison, in wartime Copenhagen, fresh food is strictly rationed. Almost all supplies are allocated to the German soldiers. Annemarie even notes that

"now and then he [Uncle Henrik] was able to send cheese into Copenhagen to his sister's family."

On the first morning after their arrival, Annemarie's mother makes oatmeal for the girls and "there was a pitcher of cream on the table." This is a treat because they have not had cream or fresh dairy in "a very long time." Uncle Henrik is even able to produce a small pat of butter, although he also does not usually have butter; he too must sacrifice for the German soldiers.

Perhaps the biggest difference between Copenhagen and Henrik's farm is that life appears more peaceful and safer on the farm. However, this is not really true. If the Nazis discovered that Ellen is on Uncle Henrik's farm, she would be seized and Annemarie's family would be punished.

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