I am David. “That looks interesting,” I thought after reading the back cover. That’s one thing about shopping at an op shop where books cost 20c each – you grab everything that looks interesting, because there isn’t much to lose. I didn’t recognize the cover, but I realized later I’d read up about I am David before, and marked it as ‘to-read’.
I am David is the story of a boy called David. (I know, surprise!) He grew up in a prison camp, under the guard of them, and he doesn’t know how, or why, he got there. He gleans pieces of information from other prisoners who come and go, but he’s trained himself not to think. His exposure though, means he can speak and understand several languages. One day, David escapes, and begins a trek across countries, following directions given to him. Along the way, he has some narrow escapes, and several adventures. All the time though, he’s worried that they are just behind him, and he works carefully to be as inconspicuous as possible. He also tries to remember everything he can about life in the outside world, wishing he had paid more attention to what the other prisoners talked about. But he manages, and he learns fast. Along the way he also learns who he is, and where he is going.
David is a deep thinker, and some of his insights are quite profound. He often remembers statements someone called Johannes told him, and he seeks to live by them. For example:
“But Johannes had said, ‘Politeness is something you owe other people, because when you show a little courtesy, everything becomes easier and better. But first and foremost it’s something you owe yourself. You are David. And if you never allow other people to influence what you’re really like, then you’ve something no one can take from you – not even they. Never mind what others are like – you must still be David. Do you understand what I mean?’” p92
To me, that is a powerful sentence: “If you never allow other people to influence what you’re really like, then you’ve something no one can take from you.” David lives by that rule, and that’s why he can say, I am David.
Because David has grown up in a dull prison camp, he knows nothing else. Things we take for granted, he sees as wonderful, and worth examining and exclaiming over. He’d never heard music before, he’d never seen a bed before. And he couldn’t understand how children didn’t like being clean or going to school, or appreciate the fine meals.
David’s relationship with his God of the green pastures and still waters is so sweet. Part way along his journey, David decides he needs a God. So he thinks about all the gods he’s heard about, and finally settles on one another David had once mentioned – a God of the green pastures and still waters. David talks to God, and asks for help when he runs into trouble. Then David feels he ought to repay God for all the help He’s given, so he does something for God. Along the way, David learns more about His God.
I like the way it’s written too: every paragraph contains so much; there are no fillers. I am David was actually originally translated from Danish. This book was also good, because although it is set during the Second World War, and although David has been in a prison camp, it doesn’t describe much of the cruelty and violence. So it’s suitable for younger readers, or as an introduction to holocaust stories. It’s a quick, easy read, and yet profound; I know I will be reading it again. So, I recommend you try it out!