Tuesday, February 23, 2016

THE WAR THAT SAVED MY LIFE by Rebecca Brubaker Bradley.  New York:  Penguin Young Readers Group, 2015.  320p.  ISBN 9780803740815 hc. $16.99     Gr. 5-8     JUV FIC

Bradley chronicles the childhood of Ada and her younger brother Jamie, who live in the poorest part of London in 1939.  Their mother spends most of her time at nearby pubs and routinely punishes her daughter for being born with a club foot.  The girl has not received medical treatment and is left to crawl around the confines of their third floor apartment.  When England prepares for war with Germany, the school children of London are evacuated to the countryside.  During one of her mother's long absences, Ada sneaks out of the apartment and leaves town with Jamie and the other evacuees.  The pair are assigned to Miss Smith, a childless woman mourning the loss of her dear friend.  Blessed with common sense and her own childhood experiences, Miss Smith manages to provide the children with food and clothing and advocates for them with school and medical officials.  She also has a pony named Butter, a source of freedom and responsibility for Ada. Jamie flourishes in the nurturing environment, but Ada's memories of beatings by her mother, in addition to her shame at being crippled, are larger obstacles to overcome.  Just as she begins to trust that the adults in her life have her best interests at heart, her mother shows up and drags the two children from Miss Smith's doorstep. Has their short time in a caring environment been enough to get them through the physical and mental abuse they face with their mother?  This is an inspirational story set amid the harsh realities of poverty and war.
Lynette Suckow, Superiorland Preview Center, Marquette, MI

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