I Am David

I Am David

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I Am David by Anne Holm

David's entire twelve-year life has been spent in a grisly prison camp in Eastern Europe. He knows nothing of the outside world. But when he is given the chance to escape, he seizes it. With his vengeful enemies hot on his heels, David struggles to cope in this strange new world, where his only resources are a compass, a few crusts of bread, his two aching feet, and some vague advice to seek refuge in Denmark. Is that enough to survive?
David's extraordinary odyssey is dramatically chronicled in Anne Holm's classic about the meaning of freedom and the power of hope.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780152051600
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 01/01/2004
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 108,529
Product dimensions: 5.12(w) x 7.62(h) x 0.65(d)
Lexile: 910L (what's this?)
Age Range: 7 - 10 Years

About the Author

ANNE HOLM (1922-1998) was born in Denmark, and she began her writing career as a journalist. I Am David was originally published—under the title David—in Denmark, where it became a million-copy bestseller and received numerous awards.

Read an Excerpt

David lay quite still in the darkness, listening to the men's low muttering. But this evening he was aware of their voices only as a vague, meaningless noise in the distance, and he paid no attention to what they were saying.

"You must get away tonight," the man had told him. "Stay awake so that you're ready just before the guard's changed. When you see me strike a match, the current will be cut off and you can climb over-you'll have half a minute for it, no more."

In his mind's eye David saw once again the gray, bare room he knew so well. He saw the man and was conscious, somewhere in the pit of his stomach, of the hard knot of hate he always felt whenever he saw him. The man's eyes were small, repulsive, light in color, their expression never changing; his face was gross and fat, yet at the same time square and angular. David had known him all his life, but he never spoke to him more than was necessary to answer his questions; and though he had known his name for as long as he could remember, he never said anything but "the man" when he spoke about him or thought of him. Giving him a name would be like admitting that he knew him; it would place him on an equal footing with the others.

But that evening he had spoken to him. He had said, "And if I don't escape?"

The man had shrugged his shoulders. "That'll be none of my business. I have to leave here tomorrow, and whatever my successor may decide to do about you, I shan't be able to interfere. But you'll soon be a big lad, and there's need in a good many places for those strong enough to work. Of course he may think that you aren't yet big enough but that it's still worthwhile feeding you here."

David knew only too well that those other places would not be any better than the camp where he now was. "And if I get away without being caught, what then?" he had asked.

"Just by the big tree in the thicket that lies on the road out to the mines, you'll find a bottle of water and a compass. Follow the compass southward till you get to Salonika, and then when no one's looking, go on board a ship and hide. You'll have to stay hidden while the ship's at sea, and you'll need the water then. Find a ship that's bound for Italy, and when you get there, go north till you come to a country called Denmark-you'll be safe there."

David had very nearly shown his astonishment, but he had controlled himself and, hiding his feelings, had merely said, "I don't know what a compass is."

The man had shown him one, telling him that the four letters indicated the four main points and that the needle, which was free to move, always pointed in the same direction. Then he had added, "The half minute the current's cut off is intended for you. If you try to take anyone with you, you can be sure that neither of you will get away. And now clear off before you're missed."

David did not know what had possessed him to say it. He had never asked the man for anything, partly because he knew it would be of no use, but chiefly because he would not-when you hated someone, you did not ask him for anything. But tonight he had done it: when he had reached the door, he had turned around and, looking straight into that coarse, heavy face, had said, "I'd like a piece of soap."

For a moment there had been complete silence in that bare, gray room. The man looked as if he were going to say something, but he did not, all the same. Instead, he picked up a cake of soap that lay by the side of the washbasin in the corner and threw it on the table. All he said was, "Now go."

So David had gone, as quickly as it was possible to go without appearing to be in a hurry.

The men's muttering was fainter now-some of them must have fallen asleep. The camp's latest arrival was still talking-David recognized his voice because it was less flat and grating than the others'. Whenever the newcomer dozed off to sleep, he was seized with a nightmare, and then they would all wake up again. The night before, this had happened just before the guard was changed, but if he took longer to fall asleep this evening, then it might be possible for David to slip out before the others were awakened again.

David was not yet sure whether he would make the attempt. He tried to figure out why the man had told him to do it. It was certainly a trap: just as he was climbing over, the searchlight would suddenly swing around and catch him in its beam, and then they would shoot. Perhaps something pleasant was going to happen tomorrow, and the man wanted him shot first. David had always known that the man hated him, just as much as David hated him in return. On the other hand, nothing pleasant had ever yet happened in the camp that David could remember, and he was now twelve years old-it said so on his identity card.

And then quite suddenly David decided he would do it. He had turned it over in his mind until his head was in a whirl, and he still could not understand why the man had told him to escape. David had no wish to make the attempt: it would only be a question of time before he was caught. But suppose it were a trap and they shot him-it would all be over quickly anyway. If you were fired at while trying to escape, you would be dead within a minute. Yes, David decided to try.

There could not be many minutes left now. Over in the guardroom he could hear the men moving about and getting dressed, and he could hear the guard yawning as his pace grew slower. Then came the sound of new steps, and David pressed himself even more closely against the wall. It was the man: the faint, sleepy yellow light from the guardroom shone for a moment on his face as he passed the window. He went up to the guard, and David suddenly felt quite empty inside. He was sure that he would be unable to move when the time came. Then he saw before him the endless succession of days, months, and years that would pass if he did not. The waiting would kill him in the end, but it might take a long time unless you were old, it might take years, as he had seen with all of them. And it would grow worse and worse, all the time; David clenched his teeth so hard that he felt the muscles of his throat grow taut. Then the man struck a match.

Nineteen, twenty . . . the half minute would be up when he had counted slowly to thirty . . . David set his foot in a gap higher up the barbed wire . . . When would the searchlight come? They could not be certain of hitting him in the dark . . . and if they did not hurry, he would be over.

A moment later he had touched the ground on the other side, and as he ran, he said angrily to himself, "What a fool you are! There's plenty of ground to cover yet-all this great flat stretch without so much as the stump of a tree for shelter. They'll wait till you've nearly reached the thicket . . . they'll think it more amusing if you believe you've almost gotten to safety."

Why didn't they hurry up? The thought pounded through his head as every moment he expected to see the ground lit up in front of him. Then he stopped. He would run no more. When the beam of light caught him, they should see him walking away quite calmly. Then they would not enjoy it so much; they would feel cheated. The thought filled David with triumph.

When he was little, it had been his most burning desire to get the better of them, especially of the man. And now he would! They would be forced to shoot him at the very moment when he was walking quietly away and taking no notice of them!

David was so taken up with his victory over them that he had gone a dozen yards past the spot where the thicket hid him from the camp before he realized that no one had fired. He stopped short. What could have happened? He turned, found a place where the thicket was thin enough to peer through, and looked across at the low buildings outlined against the dark sky, like an even darker smudge of blackness. He could faintly hear the tread of the guard, but it came no nearer and sounded no different from usual, only farther off. Nothing at all appeared different; there was no sign of anything afoot.

David frowned in the darkness and stood for a moment undecided; it couldn't possibly . . . ? He trotted on, following the edge of the thicket toward the big tree, running faster the nearer he got, and when he reached the tree, he threw himself down on the ground, searching frantically around the trunk with his hands.

There was the bundle. David leaned up against the tree shivering with cold, although it was not cold at all. The bundle was a piece of cloth wrapped around something and tied in a knot. He fumbled with the knot, but his fingers were clumsy and would not respond-and then he suddenly realized that he dared not undo it. There would be something dangerous inside the bundle . . . He tried to gather his thoughts together sufficiently to think what it might be, but his imagination did not get beyond a bomb.

It would make little difference, he thought desperately-a bullet or a bomb-it would soon be over, either way. Frantically, his fingers awkward, he struggled with the cloth.

But there was no bomb in the cloth. It was a square handkerchief tied crosswise over a bottle of water and a compass, just as the man had said.

The thought now occurred to David for the first time that he might simply have walked past the bundle. He was quite alone: nobody was there to make him pick it up ... He barely managed to turn aside before he was sick.

Afterward he felt carefully all around the square-shaped bundle. A bottle, a compass-there was something else. David's eyes had grown accustomed to the darkness; in the bundle there were also a box of matches, a large loaf of bread, and a pocketknife.

So the man had intended him to escape after all! He would send out a search party in the morning, but not before . . . The night was his, and it was up to him to make the most of it.

All this had taken only a few minutes, but to David it felt like hours. His hand closed tightly around the soap-he had not let go of it for a moment since he first got it. He recalled the hours he had spent that evening lying on his plank bed listening to the muttered conversation of the men and thinking over what the man had said. He remembered, too, that it would be only a matter of time before he was caught again; but that, like everything else, no longer seemed important. All that mattered now were his bundle and the freedom of the night that lay ahead. Slowly he tucked the piece of soap into a corner of the handkerchief, laid the bottle, bread, and knife on top, tied the ends together, took a firm grip on the knot, and looked at the compass in his hand.

Then he ran.

When he looked back afterward, all he could recall of the five days that followed was running and looking all the time at the compass to make sure he was traveling in the right direction. Every night he ran, and he ran all night long. Once he slipped into a water hole, and the mud caked on him as it dried. Once he was so torn by branches that blood oozed from the scratches on his face, hands, and legs. He would never forget that night. He had come to a close thicket of thornbushes, and the needle indicated that he should go straight through it. He had hesitated a moment and then tried running a few yards along the edge of it, but the compass needle immediately swung around. Perhaps he could have recovered his direction a bit farther on, but he knew so little about compasses that he dared not risk it. And so he plunged into the thicket, elbows up to protect his face. The first branch that struck him hurt painfully, and so did the first gash along his arm, but after that he noticed nothing and just crashed his way through. The nights were usually completely quiet, but that night he could hear a whimpering moan the whole time. Not until afterward did he realize that the sound had come from himself.

He ran all the time, sometimes fairly slowly so that it took him hours to go a short way, sometimes so quickly that he felt his blood pounding. Every morning with the first glimmer of daylight he lay down to sleep. It was not very difficult to find somewhere to sleep in that sparsely inhabited district. David had no idea what the countryside looked like; for him it was only a place where he must run through the night and hide by day.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"The single finest novel ever written for children of about ages 9 to 13."
School Library Journal

"Read it, read it!"—The Horn Book

"Extraordinary and unforgettable."—Chicago Tribune

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

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I Am David 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 31 reviews.
CassyM More than 1 year ago
Join a twelve-year-old boy named David on his journey to freedom away from the concentration camp. When David escapes from the camp he does not trust anyone or anything because he is scared that they will tell the guards and have him beat up, or possibly killed. He thinks the bundle the man gave him contained a bomb because he doesn't know whether or not to trust him; instead it contained a water bottle, bread, a compass, a pocket knife, and matches. When he rescues Maria from a fire, he is invited into the family's home. He wanted to learn how to be a regular kid, but he did not understand the point of playing games with others. He would rather read and listen to music. He overhears people talking about his eyes and how they look silent, Maria's mother said they were the eyes of an old man that had seen too much in his life and was ready to die. This book has a lot of elaboration; it described the scenery and David's feelings very well. It is very touching at moments, like when David first smiled at Maria. She was the only person he could smile for and possibly trust. The only bad part was that the beginning went along slowly because the author is describing the long journey from the prison to Salonika. The style of the author is very good; she uses some foreign language, which makes it interesting for me because I want to learn what those words mean. It is motivating when David is trying to learn how to use synonyms because before he only knew a few words on how to describe things. When he was describing beautiful things, he found that there were three levels to the word, nice, pretty, and beautiful. Most of the language is concrete and general and most of the words are monosyllabic. There is some dialect but not much. There are not a lot of metaphors or similes because David has a very literal mindset. Even though David knows very little of the outside world, he is quite the smart one; he figures out the words in other languages by similar pronunciation and spelling. The only time he uses a simile is when he compares Maria to a flower and Carlo to the guards at concentration camp. This book is set up to follow David's journey and has a few flashbacks. This book is for people who want to know more about the effects of living in a concentration camp and for people who just like read for fun. Overall, I liked this book very much.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book really made me grateful for a number of things. It made me think about what is most important in my life to protect. I found myself become emotional about the events in the main character's life. It was a captivating easy read that made me think. It would be a great piece of liturature to use when studying WWII or to use with a specific theme as "Freedom", "Liberty" etc.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As a 14-year-old I found this book pretty dull. I struggled to get through the beginning, but kind of got into it at the end. I loved the message behind it, but I really wasn't impressed overall.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Heartwarming and heart wrenching. While not my normal genera of tale, i found myself up all night reading. The story is written to young readers but was not lacking for an adult. The story deals with survival and exploration of both a world never yet seen and belief in spiritual beings. This story will make any reader self evaluate and re-organize his/her priorities. 246 short yet powerful pages to turn, and in the end, not near as many pages as desired.
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akasbarta1 More than 1 year ago
"I am David" by Anne Holm is a very interesting, thrilling, and touching book. Although the book says it is for only 8 to 13 years old, I found the book is not only for the kids but also very good and interesting for all people who loves to read. This book is about a young boy name David who lived his whole live in a concentration camp. then he escape form the camp and begin to understand his live and the environment. He seems like more mature than a 13 year old boy, actually I believe he is more mature than any of us in lot of ways.
RoseJai More than 1 year ago
This book is absolutely amazing. I felt so many things as I read it and after I finished. It's one of those books you never forget and the main character is a boy you come to care about so much you feel as though he's real. FYI the movie based on this book amazingly enough was just as good- if not better-than the book due to something they added that wasn't in the book (it has to do with how the main character David loses his best friend Johannes).
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is so great it makes you happy, sad, curious, and it makes you want to know what happens next!!! i read this book and thought okay i just have to read this to get an a on my book report but when i read it it's like i got more appreciation for the poor people who had to go through the Holocaust. i strongly recommed this book!!!!! i loved it and i think anyone that reads it will love it as well.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This novel was very unique in the sense that the storyline was not that of usual Holocaust-World War II era novels. It told the story in a fresh and new fashion, and it was told very well.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book 20 years ago. I loved it but could never remember the title. Tonight, I saw the movie and found out the name. I am going to get a copy for myself and my son. It is a wonderful story about survival in the eyes of a child.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was amazing! I couldnt put it down. I Loved every minute of it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I remember reading this book when I was 12 years old. It was titled North to Freedom then. It was the first book that moved me enough to cry. I've been searching for it for my kids and finally found it under this new title. It's a must read for all young readers.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was inspiring, and just plain beautiful. It's about David, a hero you come to love from the first few pages. He escapes from a concentration camp, with know knowledge of the world around him. I was moved by his innocent observations of a world he's never seen before, and his value of the little things we take for granted. It made me cry and warmed my heart throughout. This is one of the best books I've ever read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was one of the best books I have ever read and I highly reccomend it!!!!!!!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
It's been almost 20 years since I read this book, but it impacted on me so much I am now hunting down a copy for my library! As a child to read and identify with this young, frightened boy as he bravery goes about trying to survive day to day life, I didn't put it down until I had finished it (took me about 5 hours). An absolute must buy!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think that this story was very touching because it tells how David survives after a long twelve years of a Communist concentration camp.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a compelling story of a twelve year old boy who has spent his impressionable years in a concentration camp. No one knows why he's there, or what happened to his parents, except for the people who imprisoned him. David doesn't even really know why a guard who seems to hate him suddenly helps him escape and tells him to get to Denmark. David knows little about the outside world, but he's quick to learn and has been exposed to many different languages inside the camp. He trusts no one and has few interaction skills with people. Strangers are suspicious of him. David quickly realizes he must learn how to smile and fit in if he hopes to make his long journey without being caught and returned to 'them' in the concentration camp. Though listed as juvenile fiction, this is a 'must read' for adults as well.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an intriguing story about a young boy who has a chance to escape an Eastern European camp.He has no knowledgde of the outside world. David learns quickly about his surroundings and the personalities of the people he meets.It is a book for all ages! Adults should read this to their children and watch the movie together.