I Am David
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First UK edition
|Original title||Jeg er David|
|Translator||L. W. Kingsland|
|Genre||Children's, historical novel|
Published in English
|Media type||Print (hardback and paperback)|
|ISBN||0-15-205161-9 (first English edition, hardback)|
|LC Class||PZ7.H7322 Iae 2004|
I am David is a 1963 novel by Anne Holm. It tells the story of a young boy who, with the help of a prison guard, escapes from a concentration camp in an unnamed Eastern European country (according to geographical clues, probably Bulgaria) and journeys to Denmark. Along the way he meets many people who teach him about life outside the camp.
The book, originally written in Danish, has been translated into several languages, including Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish and German (all 1963), Dutch (1964), English (1965), Afrikaans (1981), French (1986) and Konkani (1987). In the United States, the book was first called North to Freedom, but it is now also being published as I am David. It was made into a film in 2003.
Twelve-year-old David has lived in a concentration camp for as long as he can remember. While the people who run the camp are only referred to as them, later in the book it is stated that they came to power in 1917, indicating that the captors are Communists.
His only friend in the camp, Johannes, died some time before, but one of the commandant has been keeping an eye on David, making sure he is fed properly and taking his vitamins. This guard sets up the escape, gives him some soap, and leaves a sack outside the camp fence with bread, a bottle of water, and a compass in it. David must go south to Salonica, find a boat to Italy, then travel north to a free country that has a king.
David uses the excuse that he works for a circus to explain why he is a polyglot and why he is travelling (to catch up with the circus which has gone ahead). On his way, he helps people, and sometimes they give him money. Along his journey, David discovers the beauty of the world and slowly he changes his behavior and the way he interacts with people.
He saves a girl named Maria from a fire in a shed where she was trapped. David spends some time in Maria's family's house, where he sees a globe and learns about different countries. However, his knowledge of suffering and death worries the parents. David overhears them talking about him and leaves the house to travel north again. Some time later he sees a newspaper personal advertisement aimed at him and placed by Maria's family offering him a home, so he sends them a letter to reassure them that he is all right.
When he meets Sophie, a middle-aged lady that lives in Switzerland and likes to paint as hobby, she asks David if she might paint him; later she invites David to have lunch with her in her house, and while he is there, David sees a picture of a woman in Denmark. Sophie tells him that the woman's husband and child were killed, but that one guard let the woman escape. He realises he needs to travel to Denmark and find that woman because she is his mother. He also realises that the guard, who became the commandant, saved him because he was in love with David's mother. However, he did not reunite them because she did not love him back, and he still felt a need for revenge.
When winter hits, he is held prisoner by a farmer who uses him for slave labour. But along with this he gets shelter until the snow melts. The farmer's dog keeps him company through the winter, and travels with him when he escapes in the spring. Later, the dog gives his life to distract some guards so that David can sneak over the border.
Finally he arrives in Denmark, and traces the woman through the telephone directory. When he knocks on her door, he simply tells her "I am David", and she knows he is her long-lost son.
- Crystal Heart Award
- Heartland Film Festival
- Lewis Carroll Shelf Award
- American Library Association Notable Book
- Best Scandinavian Children's Book
- Boys Club of America Junior Book Award Gold Medal
- David, [København] Gyldendal, 1963 (first edition)
- I am David, Orlando, Fla. : Harcourt, 2004, ISBN 0-15-205161-9 (hc), ISBN 0-15-205160-0 (pbk)
- The Best Scandinavian Children's Book awarded in 1995
- Gale Children's Literature Review, vol. 75, 136-141
- Gale Contemporary Authors, vol. 17
- Kraks Blaa Bog (Danish Who's Who) 1998