Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, Author
Dial Books for Young Readers, Fiction, Jan. 8, 2015
Suitable for Grade Levels – 4 – 7
Themes: WW II, Evacuation of children, London, Siblings, Family relationships, Disabilities, Identity
Opening: “Ada! Get back from that window!” Mam’s voice, shouting. Mam’s arm, grabbing mine, yanking me so I toppled off my chair and fell hard to the floor.
Book Jacket Synopsis: Ten-year-old Ada has never left her one-room apartment. Her mother is too humiliated by Ada’s twisted foot to let her outside. So when her little brother, Jamie, is shipped out of London to escape the war, Ada doesn’t waste a minute — she sneaks out to join him.
So begins a new adventure for Ada, and for Susan Smith, the woman who is forced to take two kids in. As Ada teaches herself to ride a pony, learns to read, and watches for German spies, she begins to trust Susan — and Susan begins to love Ada and Jamie. But, in the end, will their bond be enough to hold them together through wartime? Or will Ada and her brother fall back into the cruel hands of their mother?
What I like about this book:
- Kimberly Brubaker Bradley’s story tugs at her reader’s heart-strings from the first page. It is a captivating journey about pain, love (lost and found), freedom from the past and victory over obstacles. The narrative is in Ada’s voice.
- The setting is vivid and realistic, from Ada’s window perch to the beautiful English countryside, Susan Smith’s home, the airfield, and the community that love and support the siblings. The story is rich in detail of how WW II changed British family life. And there are spies and bombs. The author did a lot of research.
- The story is character driven. Readers will be captivated by Ada’s spirit and strong will. She is a survivor and makes her escape from her one-room prison, Mam, and Hitler’s bombs. In Ada, we see how abusive relationships can be more crippling than her clubbed foot. Ada shows signs of detachment when she finds it hard to trust and get close to Susan. Instead she bonds with a pony named Butter even though she wants to believe in love and acceptance.
- The strong plot is fast-moving with unexpected surprises and twists that have the reader quickly turning pages.
- The War that Saved My Life is a story that will stay with you long after you put it down. Once I finished the story, I wasn’t ready to let it go. I thought about the characters the next day and reread the last four chapters the next evening. For me, this is a book worth reading!
My Favorite Ada lines: I was greeted with smiles and shouts of “There’s our little spy-catcher! or “There’s our good lass!” It was if I’d been born in the village. As if I’d been born with two strong feet. As if I really was someone important, someone loved.”
Resources: There is a teacher’s guide available for Bradley’s novel.
Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, a longtime Anglophile, first became interested in World War II evacuees, when her mother read Bedknobs and Broomsticks out loud at bedtime. Her historical fiction has garnered great acclaim: Jefferson’s Sons received four starred reviews, Ruthie’s Gift was a Publishers Weekly Flying Start, and For Freedom was an IRA Teacher’s Choice and Bank Street College Best Book of the Year. Visit Bradley at her website.