Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Children's Book Review: The War That Saved My Life

The War That Saved My Life
Bradley Brubaker

Ten-year-old Ada has an untreated clubfoot and an abusive mother. The woman is merciless. She berates her for her disability and forces Ada to crawl on the ground instead of learning to walk. She won’t even allow her outside to attend school. Ada is essentially a prisoner. Her family shares a one bedroom apartment in London at the beginning of World War II. The only good thing in her life is her six-year-old brother, Jamie. Their mother allows him to run unsupervised through the streets, forcing Ada so spend the day lonely and worried about him. When Jamie brings home news that the city’s children are being evacuated to the country, their mother resolves to send only Jamie to safety. Resourceful Ada devises a plan to accompany her brother. She is determined to protect him and escape their miserable living situation and the impending war.

Ada’s escape goes off without a hitch, but when 200 of London’s poorest children show up instead of the expected 70, the authorities scramble to place them in the homes of country villagers. Poor Ada and Jamie don’t realize how pathetic they are until they’re the only kids left without a home. Their fate is sealed when a stern city official places them in the home of Susan, who resists vehemently, saying she’s “Not a nice person.” Despite her protestation, she feeds the children, buys them clothes, takes them to the doctor, and even lets Ada learn to ride a horse. It’s almost too good to be true. In fact, she is certain that it is too good to be true. Ada is the only person in the world who doesn’t want the war to end.

This was a great book. It’s a powerful read for young and old alike. There’s so much to gain from every facet of the story. The historical fiction aspect gives readers a glimpse into the lives of the British children who spent the war in strangers’ homes. On top of that, the story is emotionally compelling while managing to be fun. It’s a great opportunity to walk in someone else’s shoes. Ada is full of spirit, wit, and compassion. Watching her learn to read and ride and love is a pleasure. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not all touchy-feely. There’s some action when the war comes to Ada’s doorstep in the form of spies, bombs, and airplanes. The plot is fast-moving and well-crafted with plenty of adventure to satisfy everyone. I highly recommend it for middle grade readers, teenagers, and adults of all ages.

Mollie McFarland
Springville Road Regional Branch Library

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