The War That Saved My Life

by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Ten-year-old Ada was born with a club foot that was never fixed and her abusive,... read more

Ten-year-old Ada was born with a club foot that was never fixed and her abusive, financially struggling mother has kept her isolated all her life. The evacuation of London children during World War II gives Ada and her little brother, Jamie, a chance to escape their grim life. The two end up in a small village at the home of a woman named Susan Smith. There is not necessarily anything extraordinary or unpredictable in this satisfying story in which the three become a close and loving family except for the telling itself, which reveals refreshing complexities of characters and situations. As Ada, Jamie, and Susan adjust, it becomes clear that Ada, despite many seemingly idyllic elements of her new life, feels immense anger and grief over a mother who could not love her. Susan, too, is grieving—her former housemate died the year before and though it’s never stated, it’s clear the two women were a couple. Susan is also figuring out parenting and caretaking, tasks made more difficult by the children’s abusive history and the temporary nature of the arrangement. A nearby RAF airfield, the evacuation of Dunkirk, and the bombing of London all come into play in a story that also offers honesty regarding the hard truths of war but is ultimately full of the hope that comes with kindness and connection. (Ages 8–12)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2016

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