The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
June 15, 2017
Ten-year-old Ada Smith has spent her entire life in their tiny London apartment. Her abusive mother, ashamed of Ada's clubfoot, keeps Ada inside and tells the neighbors Ada is 'simple. With the beginning of World War II, school children are shipped to the countryside to protect them from bombing raids. Ada's younger brother Jamie is leaving and Ada sneaks out to join him.
No one will take Ada and Jamie until Susan Smith, a single woman in town is forced to bring them in. All three are distrustful of each other, but soon life in Kent feels more like home than London ever did. Ada experiences kindness and gains self-confidence as she learns to ride a pony, knit, and even read. Knowing their place is temporary, Ada lives in fear of returning to her cruel mother and no freedom. But once Ada finds her place in the world, she won't give it up easily.
This historical fiction novel provides a glimpse of wartime England. It also teaches about identity, loyalty and friendship. The war experiences are gentle enough for middle grade readers, but the story will also interest tweens. I struggled reading about the cruel mother with her verbal and emotional abuse, but it might open up some good discussion about the power of harsh words.