Lois Lowry's Blog


Number the Stars

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Tuesday, 01 July 2008 in Uncategorized

This morning I answered an email from a teacher who is about to start using "Number the Stars" with a group of boys and wondered if I had any additional information that would enhance the experience for them.  I suggested that he? she? (can't remember) research Kim Malthe-Bruun, the young resistance fighter who was executed in Denmark by the Nazis, and who was the model for Peter in the book.

I remember first encountering Kim's story in Denmark when i was doing research for the book. When I saw his photograph at age 18, I took a deep breath because he so reminded me of my own son, Grey, at that age.  This morning I looked for the high school graduation photo of Grey that gave me that feeling of recognition, but unfortunately it is on my computer at home...I am using a laptop here in Maine.  Nonetheless, here is a photo of Kim Malthe-Bruun;  and I also found, in my search this morning, some excerpts from letters that Kim wrote from prison, which I will insert here.   


(1) Kim Malthe-Bruun, letter to Hanne about his experiences of being tortured by the Gestapo (3rd March, 1945)

However, though I am afraid, though I do not yield ground, my heart beats faster every time someone steps before my door. One strange thing. I felt absolutely no hatred. Somewhat happened to my body; it was only the body of a boy, and reacted as such. But my soul was occupied with something completely different. Of course it noticed the little creatures who were there with my body, but it was filled so with itself that it was not closely concern itself with them.

(2) Kim Malthe-Bruun, letter to his mother, Vibeke Malthe-Bruun (4th April 1945):


I know that you are a courageous woman, and that you will bear this, but, hear me, it is not enough to bear it, you must also understand it. I am an insignificant thing, and my person will soon be forgotten, but the thought, the life, the inspiration that filled me will live on. You will meet them everywhere - in the trees at springtime, in people who cross your path, in a loving little smile - that is the great gift for which our country thirsts - something for which every humble peasant can yearn, and which he can joyously feel himself to have a part in and to be working for. Finally, there is a girl whom I call mine. Make her realize that the stars still shine and that I have been only a milestone on her road. Help her on: she can still become very happy.

(3) Kim Malthe-Bruun, letter to his girlfriend Hanne (4th April 1945):

 Today I was put on trial and condemned to death. What terrible news for a little girl only twenty years old; I obtained permission to write this farewell letter. You must not busy yourself in sorrow, for you would become arrested, sunk in a worship of me and yourself, and you would lose what I have loved most in you, your womanliness. One of these days, Hanne, you will meet a man who will become your husband. Will the thought of me disturb you then? Will you perhaps then have a faint feeling that you are being disloyal to me or to what is pure and holy to you? Lift up your head, Hanne, lift up your head once again and look into my laughing blue eyes, and you will understand that the only way in which you can be disloyal to me would be in not completely following your natural instinct. You will meet this man and you will let your heart go out to him - not to numb the pain, but because you love him with all your heart. I should like to breathe into you all the life that is in me, so that thereby it could perpetuate itself and as little as possible of it be lost. Yours, but not for ever.


Kim Malte-Bruun
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Nina Graue Monday, 29 November 1999

I just came across your blog by way of searching for creative things to do with your book, The Giver. I am so excited to see you writing here in real-time. I am a big fan of the book (a-hem to the lady who commented angrily about the book...)and plan to do the book with my eighth graders when they return from break tomorrow. I can't wait to re-read about Jonas and Gabriel.
Have a wonderful new year!

Jonas Monday, 29 November 1999

What a way to start off the new year!
By the way, I don't know how long it's been up there but I love your new headshot - looks not a day older than the first photo of you I saw on the back flap of The Giver.

joseph Monday, 29 November 1999

Hello I am curently reading the giver and its one of the best books ever . Im almost done and wanted to know if there is another book like this or like a part 2.

jennifer willis
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jennifer willis Thursday, 05 September 2013

Hello Ms. Lowry:

20 years ago i stumbled upon an astounding book entitled Heroic Heart, which was the english translation of Kim Malthe Bruun's letters home to his mother and sweetheart. I felt an immediate and powerful connection to this young man, and could not believe that this book was out of print. At that time i was working as an anthologist,and was researching a collection of WWII writing. Kim's story interested me deeply. I convinced my publisher that we should research who held the rights, and should investigate reissuing the book. He agreed and we began to try and locate the rights holders. But we were unable to find them, and my publisher put the project aside. My life intervened, and i let it go too. But i never forgot that book. Now, all these years later, i find myself once again drawn back to this remarkable young man. I am an artist and yoga teacher, and i am currently working on a mixed media project which will involved Kim's letters, and whatever other information or artifacts, photos, rememberances, etc. i can find. I was wondering if during the course of your own research you came upon anything apart from the book..any information about surviving family members or who might hold the rights? I would still like to reissue the book, certainly now as an ebook it might be much more feasible.
I have never read The Giver, but my younger son Abner counts it among one of the most profoundly influential books in his life. He is a musician and videographer, trying to make his way in the world. He came home from New York to Maine for the Labor Day weekend and we got into a conversation about artistic self expression--he was talking about how all human beings need to express themselves creatively, but that in our society fewer and fewer are encouraged or permitted to do so...so that those who are have become the repositories for creative expression for the rest of us..and that reminded him of your book, The Giver.
anyway, i know we are strangers, and that it has been some years since you lost your son, but i feel moved to send you LOVE, mother to mother, human being to human being--Being the mother of 2 boys myself (now 24 an 28) i cannot imagine such a loss.

Well, i see from you bio that you have a home in Maine--and if you are still here i hope you are enjoying these last beautiful days of summer. I was born and raised in New York City, but my husband and i moved to Cape Elizabeth 21 years ago when our boys were young.

Thank you for taking the time to read my message.

Namaste, (a greeting and goodbye we yogis use--it means, in case you don't know, "the divine light in me sees the divine light in you."

jennifer willis

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