The War that Saved my Life

The War that Saved my Life
The War that Saved my Life

“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.

Voices at Whisper Bend

Voices at Whisper Bend
Voices at Whisper Bend

Voices at Whisper Bend by Katherine Ayers is a young adult mystery novel set in World War II.  We meet Charlotte and her brother, Robbie, who are 12 and 9 respectively.  The war has only been going on for a few months when they listen to Franklin Delano Roosevelt give a fireside chat, urging ordinary Americans to do their part for the war effort.  Charlotte decides to collect scrap metal and enlists her school to help.

One day all the scrap metal goes missing, propelling the mystery as to who stole it.  Charlotte and Robbie run through a bunch of different suspects, discovering in the end they had misjudged all of them.  One was a boy named Paul Russi who Charlotte thought for sure was the culprit.  But when Paul offers to help Robbie when his hand is injured and has to go the doctor, Charlotte realizes he is a good guy.  Another is a teacher who the kids thought was dodging the draft when really he was ineligible for the draft for medical purposes.  Kids at school blame Mr. Willis who’s the school’s janitor and had access to the keys that unlocked the room where the metal was stored.

One day on the boat with her father, Charlotte sees a pile of scrap metal.  She returns with Paul and Robbie to explore it and it turns out its the pile of stolen metal!  The kids decide to watch the pile from a rowboat and one night when it’s raining, they pull ashore and catch the thieves.  It turns out it was a kid from Robbie’s class and his older brother.  They needed the money because their mom just died and he was supporting them.

After inviting them to their house, Charlotte and Robbie and their mother find a solution.  They will plead with the draft board for an exemption for Joseph, the older brother, so he can get a real job to support the family.  They will ask to stay with an elderly neighbor who is lonely and has extra rooms.  And Charlotte’s dad needs help on the tugboat so Joseph will have a job that is vital to the war effort–helping him earn an exemption from the draft.

Very quick read.  I usually don’t like mysteries but with all the twists and turns Ms. Ayers throws in and the very happy and uplifting ending, it was a book my whole family enjoyed.  I loved how they all sat down at the end to learn why the metal was stolen and just didn’t call the cops, which would have resulted in the break-up of a family.  Instead, one family is helped in a life-changing way all because the effort was made to understand the culprits.  Good twist on your typical crime book.

Great historical background as we see air-raid drills in the schools, rationing of food, Victory gardens, men in war, women working in steel mills, and an entire country pitching in to defeat a horrible threat to mankind–Hitler.  Highly recommended for both entertainment and historical value.