It’s 1940 and as WW2 rages on, Robert is evacuated to his grandparents’ farm in Scotland with younger sister Elsa. Whilst exploring the caves, he discovers a boy named David sleeping rough there and befriends him. David is actually a Kindertransport child, forced to leave his family behind in Berlin and now he’s fled an abusive foster family. As Robert tries to protect him, they are both unaware of a Nazi secret agent out to track down David, find an Enigma codebook hidden amongst David’s belongings and then kill him…
When I’m reading a story and I don’t want to go to bed because I’m so invested in the characters and plot that I’m desperate to finish it then I know I’m onto a winner! The Hunt for David Berman is such a powerful yet gentle story – it perhaps sounds odd to describe a story in which the Gestapo are after a young boy to find a code book hidden with him then kill him as gentle but Claire has sensitively tackled the darkness with such powerful love and friendship. From the beginning, you are drawn into the quieter pace of village life for Robert and Elsa compared to life in London and when Robert finds David in the cave, a beautiful friendship forms.
Relationships are a massive part of this story – as well as Robert and David’s, it’s interesting seeing Robert’s relationship with his grandparents: while initially Grandad is quite vocal about Robert’s inability to support on the farm, it is their relationship which I found most fascinating as Robert looks for a father figure while his dad and uncle are away at war. Will both men make it home? How will family dynamics be affected? When David’s background is explored, it’s the perfect and heartbreaking piece of the jigsaw to fully understanding these characters.
And obviously without spoiling the ending, I must mention the fundamental hook of this story which makes it stand out from other WW2 stories for children – a Nazi secret agent out to kill David and retrieve a codebook. Earlier in the story, chapters in Germany start building the tension but once Mr Brown is introduced, it rackets up and I couldn’t put this down.
The Hunt for David Berman is a uniquely captivating WW2 story which builds to a dramatic conclusion. Despite the battles happening in the world, it is a story filled with love and friendship. Do good. Help others.
Suggested reading age: 9+
The Hunt for David Berman is written by Claire Mulligan and will be published by The Moth on 5th May 2022. You can preorder your copy here.