Two things converged to move The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley to the top of my reading list. One was the insistence of a friend, who has never steered me wrong on a good book, and the second was the intriguing title. Make that three – it won a Newbery Honor and half a dozen other awards in 2016.
The book opens with a scene of nine-year-old Ada being reprimanded by her mother for saying hello to another child out the window. Her mother is too embarrassed by Ada’s deformed foot to let her outside. It would be a war in the summer of 1939 that would take Ada from London – make that – allow her to slip out of the city. Children were being sent away from the bombings to the country for safety where they were housed by volunteer families. Ada sneaks away when her brother Jamie is being sent to safety.
Jamie and Ada are last of their group of children to be placed. Their reluctant foster parent, Susan Smith, lets them know right away, “I don’t know a thing about taking care of children.” Ada claims that their last name is also Smith. Susan lets the lie slide. When Jamie explains that nice people hate Ada’s ugly foot, Susan responds, “You’re in luck then because I’m not a nice person at all.”
This not-nice person immediately bandages Ada’s foot, puts them in clean clothes, combs their hair, and scrambles a big pan of eggs. The adventure now begun will have wartime difficulties, including a time when most of the other children return home to London. A bigger difficulty arises when their mother figures out where they are, but I won’t spoil the story.
Now that I’ve finished reading the book, I must add a fourth attraction. This piece of historical fiction set in World War II falls into my favorite category, especially when the time and place is woven so skillfully into the story. If you have as long a reading list as mine, I recommend moving this up in the stack to be read soon!