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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
I Am David
by Anne Holm
Age Range: 9-11
Anne Holm’s 1963 account of David, a boy who has escaped from a concentration
camp in an unnamed Eastern bloc country, and his search for his family, has
become a classic in a genre which already contained novels of the calibre of
Serraillier’s The Silver Sword. David has survived in the camp by never allowing
himself to think further than the next meal. After the death of his friend and
teacher, Johannes, he never allows himself to have any affection for anyone. Ann
Holm decontextualizes her character and his situation to such an extent that he
stands for all dispossessed humanity, throughout time.
She emphasises both David’s innate dignity and the absence of more sophisticated social skills which has resulted from his incarceration, but also portrays his gradual reassimilation into trusting relationships, which he has avoided for fear of hurt and betrayal. Although some of the coincidences which allow him to return to his (hitherto unknown) mother appear contrived, this is an intensely powerful book, of relevance to a study of the effects of ethnic cleansing in any era.
(Outside In: Children’s Books in Translation, Milet, 2005)