Review Blog

May 12 2016

The war that saved my life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

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Text Publishing, 2016. ISBN 9781925355642
(Age: 9+) Highly recommended. Disability. World War 2. Children in war. Winner of many awards (Newbery Honor (2016), Schneider Family Book Award for Middle School (2016), Odyssey Award (2016), Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children's Book Award Nominee (2017), Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Middle Grade and Children's (2015)) The war that saved my life is a moving and uplifting story of Ada, a young girl with an un-repaired clubfoot, who overcomes incredible odds, in her fight to save her life. Living in poverty in London, with a cruel and neglectful mother who hates her for her clubfoot, Ada is not allowed outside and sees only the small world that is available to her from the upstairs window. She looks after her little brother Jamie, and slowly and painfully teaches herself to walk. When war threatens and children are evacuated to the country to be safe, Ada and Jamie go to live with Susan, a grieving woman who doesn't want them. There Ada teaches herself to ride Butter, the pony living in the paddock belonging to the house, and gradually Susan and the children begin to trust each other and love grows. She learns to read and watch for German spies, but there are many difficulties to overcome - not the least the mother who may take them away again.
Worthy of all the awards that it has won, this book is an uplifting read of one girl overcoming incredible odds. The reader is carried along by the story of Ada's trials and triumphs, not just the physical ones of teaching herself to walk and to ride a horse, but her emotional ones of learning to trust adults and making friends.
Set against the story of World War 2, the author subtly gives the reader an insight into the life of poor people in the 1940's, their attitude to physical disabilities, class, children who favour their left hand, as well as the bombings, the evacuation of children, food rationing and watching for spies. The content and the flowing narrative would also make it a great read-aloud as a class novel.
Beautifully written, this book has wide appeal with its themes of overcoming adversity, adventure, history and family and coming of age.
Pat Pledger

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