Saturday, July 30, 2016

The war that saved my life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

If I could walk, maybe Mam wouldn't be so ashamed of me.  Maybe we could disguise my crippled foot.  
Maybe I could leave the room ... 
That's what happened, though not in the way I thought it would. 

This book is really only suitable for the most mature readers at my school but I do hope I can put in into the hands of a senior student who finds this poignant tale as engrossing as I did.

This is another one of those books that I started one night and almost finished in one sitting - not bad for 314 pages.

Perhaps you have read the classic story Goodnight Mister Tom.  The war that saved my life follows the same historical period and evacuation experience of children sent from London to stay in rural England.

Ada has been born with a club foot.  Her ignorant and abusive mother did not allow any medical intervention when Ada was a tiny baby.  She regards Ada as a cripple and stupid.  Children are being evacuated all over London.  Ada decides she and her younger brother Jamie must leave.  They board a train filled with children bound for Kent.  Reluctantly a lady called Susan Smith takes in the two children.  Very, very gradually the three form a strong bond but for Ada the most special part of her new life is the pony in the field beside the house.  Ada's care of Butter and her determination to learn how to ride and jump mirror the persistence and care of Susan and gradually Ada, Jamie and Susan form a little family unit.

There are several very violent scenes in this book especially early in the story when Ada is locked in a small cupboard by her abusive mother.  While I do highly recommend this book I feel it is only suitable for mature students.

It is very easy to tell the author adores horses.  This is the scene when Ada meets Butter for the first time :

"I toddled and stumbled.  Everything hurt.  The pony watched me.  When I reached the stone wall I sat on it and swung my legs over to the other side.  The pony stepped toward me, lowered his head, sniffed my hands, and pressed his neck against me. I put my arms around him.  I understood how he go his name.  He smelled like butter in the hot sun."

Here is the Kirkus review.  Here is a video interview with the author.  Here is a detailed review in the School Library Journal.  Here is an excellent set of teaching notes from the publisher.  I also found a sample of the audio book which runs for ten minutes.

You might also enjoy Carrie's war, An elephant in the garden, Children of the King or Vinnie's war by David McRobbie.  Mosst importantly though, when you have read The war that saved my life you must read Goodnight Mr Tom.


kinderbooks said...

i will have to read this. Michelle Magorian and Nina Bawden's evacuation war stories are absolute favourites of mine.

Momo said...

This was one of those books that feels like an addiction. I actually felt quite lost when I finished reading it. I found myself going so deeply into the story it was difficult to emerge again into the 'real' world.