“Mommy, I don’t want this book to end!” my daughter said.
The War that Saved my Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley is a beautiful story of overcoming adversity and finding love set in World War II. Ten-year-old Ada Smith was born with a clubfoot. And her mother hates her for it. She locks her up in their flat, refusing her to ever leave. She crawls around and enduring humiliating treatments such as being locked in a cabinet and being physically abused. She stays to take care of her six-year-old brother.
One day Ada decides to teach herself to walk–and she does. Slowly over time. Then the war starts and children are ordered to leave the city of London to avoid the bombs from Germany. Jamie, Ada’s brother, will go, but Ada is told she can’t leave. But she does anyways. She sneaks out with Jamie and takes the train to the country.
There, they are the last evacuees to find a home. And it’s with a woman named Susan Smith who is depressed over losing her best friend and has never had children. Susan learns quickly, however. She takes both children to the doctor. Feeds them three solid meals a day. Has Ada’s foot looked at and offers surgery if her mother agrees. She clothes them, bathes them, and provides for them. And slowly, over time, both Ada and Jamie, learn to love Susan.
Both children grow and learn. Ada learns she’s not dumb. She learns to read and write and ride a horse named Butter. She helps with wounded soldiers and even catches a German spy! Jamie befriends a cat he names Bovril. Both children thrive. Until one day, Ada’s mother shows up.
Ada and Jamie are taken to London but not for long. Ada, stronger than before, stands up to her mother and gets her to admit she never wanted them and the only reason she came for them was for the money. The next day London is bombed. Susan finds the children in London whom she came to reclaim and they return to their home in Kent. Only their home is no longer standing. It was bombed. And in the end Susan saved Ada and they saved her.
Amazingly awesome story. I can’t recommend this book enough. It shows the ignorance of disabilities and the treatment disabled people endured long ago. It shows the determination of one little girl determined to have a life. It shows the love and compassion of a stranger who opens her heart despite the fact her heart is still bleeding. It shows the love of siblings and what one will do for family. A heart-warming story of overcoming adversity despite the toughest odds. And doing so at an incredibly young age. A 2016 Newbery Honor Book. And for good reason.