North to Freedom

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
North to Freedom Book Poster Image
Hard to put down, and harder to forget.

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 9 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.


David is beaten by an older boy; his dog is shot.


A chaste kiss; to save a girl from a fire, David covers her face with his wet clothes.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

David drinks wine to get to sleep.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this is a riveting philosophical adventure in a seamless translation. David speaks many languages and is concerned with speaking them properly. How people should behave and stay true to themselves is a major theme.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byLilibeth July 16, 2009
I read this book when I was an eleven year old and I never forgot it. Today, as a grandmother, I bought the book for my grandson, and feel like it is just as re... Continue reading
Adult Written byreadinggirl April 9, 2008

Great Book

This book was a real gem, especially the references to David's prayers to God. There was virtually nothing wrong with it except some violence and a brief a... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bybibliophilepianist May 31, 2013

Amazing novel

Amazing novel with great life lessons to be learned. Of course, not everyone will "love" this book as much as I do, but ALL should read it. It is defi... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byChristianHistoryFan June 28, 2012

My Favorite Book Of All Time

This is my favorite book of all time (except my Bible, of course). It is inspiring, and a unique POV of life itself. There is no content (most) parents would fi... Continue reading

What's the story?

David is a twelve-year-old who has spent his entire life in a prison camp in eastern Europe. For reasons he does not understand, the head guard allows him to escape. He is told, without knowing why, to make his way to Denmark. He stows away on a ship to Italy, then travels north on foot, fearing everyone, eluding recapture, learning to survive in a world that seems entirely alien to him.

He has no family that he knows of, and knows nothing about himself or the world outside the camp. He is bright and reasoning, but has little useful experience, and thus misunderstands almost everything he sees. Other children he finds especially difficult, and the idea of imaginative play is completely beyond him. Yet some things, like brutality and evil, he understands all too well, and more clearly than many of the people he encounters.

Is it any good?

This breathtaking adventure packs an emotional wallop and an unusual depth of compassionate understanding into a book kids have trouble putting down. It's truly one of the finest children's novels ever written. Only once in a great while does a book with this kind of power come along. It has all the elements of the ideal children's book: a riveting plot, a powerfully sympathetic main character, and an intriguing point of view. But it goes far beyond the usual children's literature, with layers of intellectual and emotional depth that keep readers coming back to it again and again.

David's first encounters with such things as bright colors, a bath, and good people are touching and, amazingly, exciting. His convictions are well reasoned and often cause young readers to evaluate their own ideas about suiting their actions to their beliefs. Many children at this age find in David a unique role model whose goodness comes from indomitable strength and courage. The reader sees through David's fresh eyes the ordinary things of everyday life. An orange, a beautiful landscape, a school, all suddenly appear as the miracles they are. And as David constructs his own relationship with "the God of the green pastures and still waters" from fragments of the Bible and his own perception of the world, the reader hears the ancient words anew. North to Freedom is hard to put down, and harder to forget.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about David's view of the world around him. Why are simple things so amazing to him? How did his beliefs help or hinder him?

Book details

  • Author: Anne Holm
  • Genre: Adventure
  • Book type: Fiction
  • Publisher: Harcourt Brace
  • Publication date: December 31, 1969
  • Publisher's recommended age(s): 9 - 12
  • Number of pages: 239
  • Last updated: July 12, 2017

Top advice and articles

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate