The War That Saved My Life

Author: Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Reviewed by: Paige Housenick, age 10 and a member of the Tween Book Club who meet on the fourth Tuesday of each month at Dog Ear Books.

At age 10 Ada Smith has never gone to school, ridden in an automobile, or even left her flat. Born with a clubfoot, Ada’s Mam forbid her from leaving her flat or even trying to walk. With the help of her little brother, Jamie, the two run away from Mam and the bombings in London to the country.

In the village Jamie and Ada go to live with unwilling Susan Smith. Ada and Jamie care for one another while Susan grieves the death of her best friend Becky. Soon Susan realizes she cares for the children. Ada uses crutches and wears a shoe for the first time and makes friends with Becky’s pony, Butter, while Jamie becomes fascinated by the Royal Air Force base next to the house. The air field is a reminder of the threat of the war.

While out riding Butter, Ada saves a girl, Maggie, when she falls off her spooked horse. Maggie becomes Ada’s first friend. Susan teaches Ada to read, sews the kids’ clothes, and sends Jamie to school. The neighbors pitch in and together they build a bomb shelter to protect Susan and the children. Ada continues to learn how to ride with the assistance of Maggie and Grimes the stable hand. She even ventures out to the village on Butter and goes to look for German spies. Eventually, Ada finds a German spy on the beach and no one believes her except one officer. Soon Ada is even able to jump the stone wall that Butter stays behind.

The children celebrate their first Christmas and feast with three Royal Airmen. Ada and Jamie receive their first ever Christmas gifts from Susan. Ada begins to understand her place in the village. Susan remembers how to trust and love others again.

Mam comes to the village to take Ada and Jamie back to London. Susan and the children do not want to be apart. They feel like a family now. The first night back Hitler begins bombing London and Ada and Jamie barely survive. Susan journeys to London and finds them in the street with demolished buildings everywhere. When they return to Susan’s house it is destroyed, but Butter is safe and the villagers are relieved that Susan and the children were also safe.

Kimberly Brubaker Bradley does a stellar job detailing Ada and Jamie’s journey. The reader becomes acquainted with each of the characters as they learn to trust one another as they become a family. My favorite part is when Ada and Susan come to the aid of wounded soldiers from Dunkirk. Ada serves them tea along with her new friend, Daisy. I like that part because Ada works hard even though her clubfoot hurts.

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