The Mayor’s Review of The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Genre: Historical Fiction, Adventure, Empathy
Age: Middle Grade (4th-8th)
Wow – this book grabbed me right away and I couldn’t stop reading it. I love historical fiction that is so engaging and well written that you don’t even know you’re taking in information about important events and ways of living from long ago. The story is set in England in WWII. Ada is a 10 year old girl born with a club foot which was an embarrassment to her working class, single mother who kept her hidden away in isolation. Ada has a little brother, Jamie, who is being shipped out of London along with most other city children as a way to protect them from Hitler’s soldiers and weapons. Ada sneaks off with him and a whole new world unfolds to her in the form of Susan Smith, an educated but depressed woman who is forced to take in Ada and Jamie. I loved the exciting plot twists and turns as Ada explores her new found freedom and watches for German spies.
My Favorite Part:
Ada is an inspiring and likable character – rough around the edges, not perfect, and embodies perseverance and grit. Some of her dialogue reminds me of the innocence of Amelia Bedelia misunderstanding situations. But, there’s a sadness to these moments as the reader knows Ada’s missteps are due to spending ten years essentially locked away from civilization. My favorite part is how Susan Smith helps her to see that the shame she has carried around due to her club foot is not her fault and that she “doesn’t need to be redeemed” because of it. I love the simple, directness of Miss Smith when she talks to Ada and serves as a complete opposite role model of what a “mother” figure can be. There’s also a subtle connection made between Miss Smith and Ada in their need for self-forgiveness for something that they couldn’t control. The author beautifully unfolds the depth of each character and what they teach each other about family, love, and the world.
Why It Mattered to Me:
It’s a fascinating glimpse into the life and times of people living in London versus the countryside from a variety of educational and income levels during one of the scariest periods in history. It’s important for me as a parent that my kids are exposed to important historical events and different ways of thinking as they learn to appreciate and question their own world. Books like this are critical to expanding the hearts and minds of young readers (and old readers, too!)
Who Should Read This Book:
I highly recommend this to mature 4th grade readers or 5th-8th graders who love adventure, history, or empathy novels. I think adults would enjoy it, too. It would make a great companion to Number Our Stars as a perspective from a similar aged girl experiencing the same scary war in a near by country.