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Thursday, March 31, 2016

Middle Grade WWII Story Heart-Wrenching, Hard to Forget

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Unlike the children she watches from the window of her London flat, 10-year-old Ada Smith has never gone outside.  Because of the club foot with which Ada was born, Ada's mother calls her a "cripple" and insists she stay inside where no one can see her shameful deformity.  There's nothing Ada wants more than to flee her filthy, roach-infested apartment; escape from her mother's cruel taunting; and run around outside with friends.  Her little brother gets that privilege every day; it's difficult not to envy 6-year-old Jamie his freedom.  

When the fear of German bombs dropping on London starts propelling concerned parents to send their children out of the city, Ada seizes the opportunity to forge a new life for herself and her brother.  But Mam will only agree to send Jamie away.  Refusing to be left behind, Ada sneaks out to join him.  Soon, the siblings find themselves in the Kent countryside under the care of Susan Smith, a lonely spinster who insists she isn't fit to be their guardian.  And yet, Ada and Jamie thrive under her watchful eye.  

As the months fly by and London remains untouched, children are being sent back home.  That's the last thing Ada and Jamie want.  Can they hold on to the stable, peace-filled life they know with Susan or will they be forced to go back to the miserable squalor that used to be all they knew?  

The War that Saved my Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley is the heart-wrenching story of a young girl's triumph over abuse.  As Ada rises above her pitiable circumstances, tackling every obstacle in her path with courage and compassion, she comes to realize that strength of character has nothing to do with physical appearances.  For the first time in her life, she knows that not only is her twisted foot nothing to be ashamed of, but also that it doesn't have to keep her from living a life that is as full and happy as anyone else's.  Chock-full of important lessons, The War that Saved my Life is a poignant tale that preaches acceptance and love as antidotes to overcoming adversity of all kinds.  It's a different kind of WWII story, not my absolute favorite, but one I've found difficult to forget.  

(Readalikes:  Hm, nothing's really coming to mind.  Suggestions?)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for violence and disturbing subject matter (child abuse/neglect, the horrors of war, discrimination against the disabled, etc.).  Homosexuality is also alluded to, albeit vaguely.

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find


  1. Wow! I like the idea of a child actually wanting to be sent away to the country during WWII. Sounds like her life was horrible and that she's a character worth rooting for.

    1. The book has a unique premise for sure and the heroine was an extremely sympathetic one.

  2. I loved this audio. I found this story to be original and heartbreaking.

    1. Someone else mentioned how good the audio version of this book is. I never listen to audio books. Maybe I should! I agree -- this book is both original and heartbreaking.


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