Author Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Publisher: Dial Books, 2015
Brief Plot Summary:
It is war time in 1939 London. Ada and her brother, Jamie, are included in the children's evacuation of the city. They are taken in to live with a rather harsh woman who lives alone in the country. Ada learns and grows - both literally and figuratively - from her experiences in the country, and returns to London a confident young woman.
The War That Saved My Life has many elements of the evaluation criteria set forth by Sylvia Vardell in her book, Children's Literature in Action. Those elements include characters, plot, setting, theme and style.
The main character in The War That Saved My Life is Ada, a young girl in 1939 London. She suffers from a crippled foot and because her mother, Mam, is embarrassed by the handicap, Ada is abused by her mother. Among other things, Ada is never allowed outside of their small accommodations. Vardell states, "The reader should be able to identify with the [characters] . . . and the characters should seem real and believable." (Pg. 208) While modern day American readers are not exhibiting war-time London, they are living in an extremely divisive time, perhaps the most divisive in the nation's history. All around them bombs are falling in the form of 'tweets' and 'posts.' They are living in a world where they can be shot at their very own school. It is likely that modern day readers can also identify on a very personal level with Ada's abuse at the hand of her mother, and the feelings of rejection that young people experience on a regular basis from their peers. Yes, Ada is certainly 'real and believable,' a character which modern readers can definitely identify with.
This book introduces modern youth to the horrors of living in a war without sugarcoating it. According to Vardell, 'History should not be sugar-coated, but be presented accurately in terms that children can understand.' The story teaches about WW2 London, and that children were evacuated to the country to remove them from the paths of the bombs. They were often taken in by strangers and a harsh reality it is that some of those strangers were unkind. Author Kimberly Brubaker Bradley did a remarkable job of teaching the history of the period, without sugar-coating it, yet in a way that makes the story relatable to the young modern reader.
Vardell says, "time and place should be explicit and vividly described . . . " (Pg. 208) The setting so masterfully described in the War That Saved My life that the reader can almost feel the dampness of London, and feel the anxiety running through the city at that time.
Bradley's them and style of writing "reflects the attitudes, values and morals of the times, but [is] still relevant to today," which Vardell says is important in the theme of historical fiction. Although Ada was living in a time and culture with different morals and values than we have today in America, the reader can still pinpoint some universal principles, such as the importance of the government protecting the children and the abilities of the handicapped.
Kimberly Brubaker Bradley created a quality work of historical fiction when she produced The War That Saved My Life.
"Ignorance and abuse are brought to light, as are the healing powers of care, respect and love.Set against a backdrop of war and sacrifice, Ada’s personal fight for freedom and ultimate triumph are cause for celebration." Kirkus
The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe - children in wartime London are removed to the country for their own safety; also set in historical England
Alchemy and Meggie Swan - overcoming physical challenges; also set in historial England
- Mark Twain Readers Award 2017
- William Allen White Award 2017
- Newbery Honor Book HONOR 2016
- Odyssey Award 2016
- Schneider Family Book Award 2016
- Winner of the Schneider Family Book Award
- Winner of the Josette Frank Award
- Wall Street Journal Best Children’s Books of 2015
- New York Public Library’s 100 Books for Reading and Sharing
- Chicago Public Library’s Best of the Best Books 2015
- Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2015
- Kirkus Best Books of 2015
- Horn Book Fanfare Book 2015
Vardell, Sylvia M. Children's Literature in Action: a Librarian's Guide. Libraries Unlimited, An Imprint of ABC-CLIO, LLC, 2014.
Book, H. (2018). Reviews of the 2012 Newbery winners. [online] The Horn Book. Available at: https://www.hbook.com/2012/01/choosing-books/reviews/reviews-of-the-2012-newbery-winners/ [Accessed 26 Oct. 2018].