Monday, December 14, 2015

MMGM: The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley


An exceptionally moving story of triumph against all odds set during World War 2, from the acclaimed author of Jefferson’s Sons and for fans of Number the Stars.

Nine-year-old Ada has never left her one-room apartment. Her mother is too humiliated by Ada’s twisted foot to let her outside. So when her little brother Jamie is shipped out of London to escape the war, Ada doesn’t waste a minute—she sneaks out to join him.

So begins a new adventure of Ada, and for Susan Smith, the woman who is forced to take the two kids in. As Ada teaches herself to ride a pony, learns to read, and watches for German spies, she begins to trust Susan—and Susan begins to love Ada and Jamie. But in the end, will their bond be enough to hold them together through wartime? Or will Ada and her brother fall back into the cruel hands of their mother?

This masterful work of historical fiction is equal parts adventure and a moving tale of family and identity—a classic in the making.


With all the rave reviews I've heard about this book I decided it was time for me to read it.  And I can see why it's been getting so many great reviews.  While it is not my favorite of the year, I would definitely put it on the list of good books published this year.  Admittedly I had a hard time with the first part of the book, where Ada and Jamie are still living with their mother.  The way their mother treated them was hard for me to read.  Child abuse deeply troubles me and so stuff like this is hard for me to read and the same will be true for some more sensitive child readers as well.  But I persisted in reading the book and thankfully, Ada and Jamie leave their mother's care quite early in the book and after that I relaxed a bit and enjoyed the book more.

Once Ada and Jamie meet Susan and start adjusting to a very different lifestyle and setting (not to mention treatment) I found the story well-told and engaging.  Ada's new found dream of learning to ride a pony helps focus her actions and the story as Ada, Jamie, and Susan all adjust to the change in circumstances.  At first none of them are happy, except Ada loves the freedom she suddenly has to be herself and try new things.  But the adjustment is hard for all of them.  Susan is still mourning her friend Becky and isn't comfortable with the children around.  Jamie wets the bed and doesn't like going to school.  Ada discovers just how much she doesn't know because of her previous isolation.  But slowly the three grow to care about each other and adapt to their new lives.  But as the war moves closer and Ada grows more attached to her growing independence the threats to their new won lifestyle are very real.  And Ada has to face the consequences of the very real abuse she endured.

The story is told from Ada's point of view, which works particularly well because the reader gets to have a first-hand look at what Ada's experiences have been and how she changes over the course of the story.  I have a great fondness for character driven stories and this one is very much that kind of story.  But the experiences she and her brother have as well as Susan and the other people they meet make for a well-plotted book as well.  I can see why other reviewers have been talking about this one in regard to the Newbery Medal.

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