I Am David (North to Freedom)
post written by Emma Filbrun
Title: I Am David (North to Freedom)
Author: Anne Holm
Major Themes: Communism, Concentration Camps, Italy, Russia
Synopsis: After his escape from a concentration camp, David sets off on foot through Europe, searching for something he can’t identify.
When I was around 8 years old, I became interested in the Underground Railroad. At that time, my family went to the local library every few weeks, and I was allowed to check out three books each time. I had figured out that you can use the card catalog to find things you wanted, but hadn’t yet discovered the subject index, so I went to the title cards and looked for “North”. The only book I found that sounded anything like the Underground Railroad was North to Freedom, so I located that book on the shelf and took it home. It turned out not to be about my topic of interest at all, but was such a great book that I checked it out and reread it several times. I reread it again last week, under its alternative title, I Am David, and was just as engrossed in the account as the first time!
When the story begins, David is in his bed in a camp, which you learn, as the story progresses, is a concentration camp, thinking over what “the man” told him to do. He, who has never been outside of this camp in his approximately 13 years of life, is to escape in the half minute that the man will turn the electric off. David knows it is a trap; the man, who hates him, is just looking for an excuse to shoot him. Should he go, or not?
After David leaves the camp, he follows the man’s directions, challenging himself to see how long he can stay free, and determining that he will not give “them” the satisfaction of seeing him run when they end the game and pick him up again. As he travels through Europe, he learns more and more about life (the part where he discovers the meaning of “beauty” and “color” is so touching), and eventually makes the mistake of allowing himself to care about someone for the first time since Johann died. Now, he knows he can never survive back in the camp—he has lost the ability to simply exist. What should he do next?
This is an absolutely wonderful story of a boy’s transformation. Don’t miss this one, or you have missed out on one of the greatest books to come out of the Communist era. This is a children’s book, and fairly gentle, but very profound at the same time. Your heart will break for David—but you will love the ending!
Read Aloud—Ages 5 – 8, 8 – 12, 10 – 13, Family Read Alouds
Reading Independently—Ages 8 – 12, 10 – 12, 12 – 15
Links to buy I Am David:
AbeBooks: View Choices on AbeBooks.com
Keywords: Communism, Concentration Camps, Italy, Russia
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