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The War that Saved my Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Three years ago, high in the mountains in Maine I stayed up until 4:15 in the morning because I couldn't put down Kirby Larson's Hattie Big Sky. I was so absorbed in my reading that the world ceased to exist for a while. I was that reader growing up. I was the one who always said, "Just one more chapter." Hattie Big Sky had all the pieces I craved in a story. There was a strong girl character and good historical information to learn and excellent writing. Interestingly enough though, I tend to fall in love with supporting characters. As I've mentioned before I adored Vola in Pax and in Hattie Big Sky I found Perilee to be so intriguing.
This weekend I dropped everything and read Brubaker Bradley's The War that Saved my Life. I was racing merrily along in the book, when my eight-year-old daughter Annie decided she wanted to hear it. So, I read the rest aloud to her. We stayed in our pajamas all day on Sunday tucked between the sheets, stopping only to use the bathroom or make more tea. It was scrumptious. This book was riveting. Set in London in 1939, Ada and her brother Jamie live with their horribly abusive Mam in a cramped apartment. Ada has a crippled foot--later identified as Club Foot. Her mother hasn't allowed her out in public for her entire life which is about ten years. The opportunity to escape her mother arrives when Ada finds out children in London are being evacuated to the countryside in case of bombing. Ada wakes up early with Jamie and, despite never walking before or having even left her apartment, she bravely escapes to the train station where they are relocated to the house of one of my favorite characters of all time, Miss Susan Smith. It is at Susan's house that they learn about love, character, and personal choice. Along the way, the reader learns about how children were relocated and damaged by wartime. There are some tough scenes, but Annie who tends to be oversensitive loved this book. She asked intellectual questions about the evacuee children and about World War II vs World War I. I'm hoping I've got a historical fiction fan on my team now!

I think one of the most important pieces about this book is that it is written sensitively for children. With adults, she might have gone deeper into certain topics, but she kept it as children would have seen it and I loved that aspect. Kudos to writers who understand and write for their intended readers.


  1. I agree, this reminded me of Hattie, Big Sky! I MISS Ada!!! She and Miss Susan Smith are two of my all time favorite characters. I love how the author brought us into the sad, dangerous, and complicated world. I read it in two days. One of my sixth graders is reading now. He came up to me after he started it and said, "Wow! Intense." A perfect description for a book I now LOVE!!!

  2. I avoided getting this book as the mother sounded too mean and I wanted a break from reading a heavy book. So instead, I got Paperboy and really enjoyed the historical fiction book about a 1950 stuttering paperboy. But your review makes me want to read this book now. Thanks.

  3. I loved this book - yes, the mother was awful...but, there are awful mothers out there and brave children who learn how to survive and thrive anyway.

  4. I was so hoping this book would get the Newbery award. A heart wrenching book for sure, but one not to be missed.

  5. My after school book club and I loved this book, and it won our Mock Newbery. What fun that you and your daughter had a pajama day to devour this book. I love Hattie Big Sky too. I've tried to get my adult book club to read it. I just started Lizzie and the Lost Baby by Cheryl Blackford, also about children being evacuated during WWII. When I read The War that Saved Me, I was reminded of an older book set during this time period, Good Night Mr. Tom. I

  6. I wish I were more like you as a reader. I started this one and left it at school. I have Pax by my bed and another book in the living room. I need to take a day off and Just. Read. I need a snow storm. Annie is going to cherish these special moments with you for her whole life!

  7. Loved this book as well -- thanks you for sharing. Great way to spend a pajama day.


  8. Still reading.....But thankfully I brought this book home with me tonight. :)

  9. I loved this book and love that you read it out loud all day! I have not read Hattie Big Sky. I missed it last year when everyone was reading it. I guess it is time I check that one out! Speaking of being late to the party!

  10. I love how you read this with Annie. There is something truly delicious about reading with your children. I am a scattered reader as well. I look to you in awe.

  11. This book is on my to-read list! This afternoon, I started reading The Dogs of Winter by Bobbie Pyron, historical fiction based on a true story of an abandoned boy living on the streets of post-Soviet Russia. Children being rescued from abysmal life conditions makes for a riveting read.


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