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The War that Saved My Life
Cover of The War that Saved My Life
The War that Saved My Life
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* Newbery Honor Book* #1 New York Times Bestseller* Winner of the Schneider Family Book Award * Wall Street Journal Best Children's Books of the Year* New York Public Library's 100 Books...
* Newbery Honor Book* #1 New York Times Bestseller* Winner of the Schneider Family Book Award * Wall Street Journal Best Children's Books of the Year* New York Public Library's 100 Books...
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  • * Newbery Honor Book
    * #1 New York Times Bestseller
    * Winner of the Schneider Family Book Award 
    * Wall Street Journal Best Children's Books of the Year
    * New York Public Library's 100 Books for Reading and Sharing 

    An exceptionally moving story of triumph against all odds set during World War II, from the acclaimed author of Fighting Words, and for fans of Fish in a Tree and Number the Stars.
    Ten-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 for 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.
    "Achingly lovely...Nuanced and emotionally acute."The Wall Street Journal
    "Unforgettable...unflinching."—Common Sense Media 
    ★ “Brisk and honest...Cause for celebration.”Kirkus, starred review
    ★ "Poignant."Publishers Weekly, starred review
    ★ "Powerful."The Horn Book, starred review
    "Emotionally satisfying...[A] page-turner."BCCB
    “Exquisitely written...Heart-lifting.”SLJ
    "Astounding...This book is remarkable."—Karen Cushman, author The Midwife's Apprentice
    "Beautifully told."—Patricia MacLachlan, author of Sarah, Plain and Tall
    "I read this novel in two big gulps."—Gary D. Schmidt, author of Okay for Now
    "I love Ada's bold heart...Her story's riveting."—Sheila Turnage, author of Three Times Lucky




  • From the book

    “Ada! Get back from that window!” Mam’s voice, shouting. Mam’s arm, grabbing mine, yanking me so I toppled off my chair and fell hard to the floor.

    “I was only saying hello to Stephen White.” I knew better than to talk back, but sometimes my mouth was faster than my brain. I’d become a fighter, that summer.

    Mam smacked me. Hard. My head snapped back against the chair leg and for a moment I saw stars. “Don’t you be talkin’ to nobody!” Mam said. “I let you look out that window out a’ the kindness of my heart, but I’ll board it over if you go stickin’ your nose out, much less talkin’ to anyone!”

    “Jamie’s out there,” I mumbled.

    “And why shouldn’t he be?” Mam said. “He ain’t a cripple. Not like you.”

    I clamped my lips over what I might have said next, and shook my head to clear it. Then I saw the smear of blood on the floor. Oh, mercy. I hadn’t cleaned it all up from this afternoon. If Mam saw it, she’d put two and two together, fast. Then I’d be in the soup for sure. I slid over until my bottom covered the bloodstain, and I curled my bad foot beneath me.

    “You’d better be making my tea,” Mam said. She sat on the edge of the bed and peeled off her stockings, wiggling her two good feet near my face. “I’m off to work in a bit.”

    “Yes, Mam.” I pushed my window chair sideways to hide the blood. I crawled across the floor, keeping my scabbed-over bad foot out of Mam’s line of sight. I pulled myself onto our second chair, lit the gas ring, and put the kettle on.

    “Cut me some bread and dripping,” Mam said. “Get some for your brother too.” She laughed. “And, if there’s any left, you can throw it out the window. See if Stephen White would like your dinner. How’d you like that?”

    I didn’t say anything. I cut two thick slices off the bread and shoved the rest behind the sink. Jamie wouldn’t come home until after Mam left anyhow, and he’d always share whatever food there was with me.

    When the tea was ready Mam came to get her mug. “I see that look in your eyes, my girl,” she said. “Don’t start thinking you can cross me. You’re lucky I put up with you as it is. You’ve no idea how much worse things can be.”

    I had poured myself a mug of tea too. I took a deep swallow, and felt the hot liquid scald a trail clear down to my gut. Mam wasn’t kidding. But then, neither was I.

    There are all kinds of wars.

    This story I’m telling starts out four years ago, at the beginning of the summer of 1939. England stood on the edge of another Great War then, the war we’re in the middle of now. Most people were afraid. I was ten years old (though I didn’t know my age at the time), and while I’d heard of Hitler—little bits and pieces and swear words that floated from the lane to my third-floor window—I wasn’t the least concerned about him or any other war fought between nations. You’d think from what I’ve already told you that I was at war with my mother, but my first war, the one I waged that June, was between my brother and me.

    Jamie had a mop of dirt-brown hair, the eyes of an angel, and the soul of an imp. Mam said he was six years old, and would have to start school in the fall. Unlike me, he had strong legs, and two sound feet on the ends of them. He used them to run away from me.

    I dreaded being alone.

    Our flat was one room...


  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from October 27, 2014
    Bradley (Jefferson’s Sons) examines WWII through the eyes of a disabled child eager to escape her life of neglect and abuse. With the threat of German bombs being dropped on London, most parents are anxious to get their children out of the city. But Ada’s mother, shamed by her daughter’s deformed foot, doesn’t seem to care. Ada takes it upon herself to board an evacuee train with her younger brother and, without their Mam’s knowledge, they arrive in a country village with a crowd of students. Malnourished and filthy, the siblings are placed with Miss Smith, a woman lacking any experience with children, who claims she isn’t “nice.” Nonetheless, she offers Ada and Jamie food, clothing, and security, and she owns a pony that Ada is determined to learn to ride. In this poignant story, Bradley celebrates Ada’s discovery of the world outside her dismal flat, movingly tracing her growing trust of strangers and her growing affection for Miss Smith. Proving that her courage and compassion carry far more power than her disability, Ada earns self-respect, emerges a hero, and learns the meaning of home. Ages 9–12. Agent: Ginger Knowlton, Curtis Brown.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from October 15, 2014
    Ada discovers there are worse things than bombs after she escapes her Mam's cruelty during a children's evacuation of World War II London. Crippled by an untreated club foot and imprisoned at home by Mam, Ada has survived, but she hasn't thrived. Only caring for her brother, Jamie, has made life tolerable. As he grows, goes out and tells Ada about the world, her determination to enter it surges. She secretly begins learning to walk and joins Jamie when Mam sends him to the country. Ada narrates, recalling events and dialogue in vivid detail. The siblings are housed with Susan, a reluctant guardian grieving the death of her friend Becky. Yet Susan's care is life-changing. Ada's voice is brisk and honest; her dawning realizations are made all the more poignant for their simplicity. With Susan's help and the therapeutic freedom she feels on horseback, Ada begins to work through a minefield of memories but still harbors hope that Mam will accept her. In interesting counterpoint, Susan also knows what it is like to be rejected by her parents. With the reappearance of Mam, things come to an explosive head, metaphorically and literally. 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. (Historical fiction. 8-12)

    COPYRIGHT(2014) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • School Library Journal

    November 1, 2014

    Gr 4-6-Bradley turns her keen historical eye from Monticello (Jefferson's Sons, Penguin, 2011) to the British home front during World War II. Ada isn't exactly sure how old she is; for as long as she can remember, she's been a virtual prisoner in her mother's third floor one-room apartment. She was born with a clubfoot and her mother uses her disability as an excuse to abuse her both emotionally and physically. Ada watches the world through the narrow confines of the apartment window, waves to neighbors in the street, and carefully gauges the danger of being beaten during each encounter with her hateful mother. She envies the freedom of her little brother, Jamie, who goes to school and generally roves the neighborhood at will. When her mother prepares to ship Jamie out to the countryside with other children being evacuated from London, Ada sneaks out with him. When the two fail to be chosen by any villagers, the woman in charge forces Susan Smith, a recluse, to take them in. Though Susan is reluctant and insists that she knows nothing about caring for children, she does so diligently and is baffled by the girl's fearful flinching anytime Ada makes a mistake. Though uneducated, Ada is intensely observant and quick to learn. Readers will ache for her as she misreads cues and pushes Susan away even though she yearns to be enfolded in a hug. There is much to like here-Ada's engaging voice, the vivid setting, the humor, the heartbreak, but most of all the tenacious will to survive exhibited by Ada and the villagers who grow to love and accept her.-Brenda Kahn, Tenakill Middle School, Closter, NJ

    Copyright 2014 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    December 1, 2014
    Grades 5-8 When word starts to spread about Germans bombing London, Ada's mother decides to send her little brother, Jamie, to the country. Not 11-year-old Ada, thoughshe was born with a crippling clubfoot, and her cruel mother treats her like a slave. But Ada has painfully taught herself to walk, so when Jaime departs for the train, she limps along with him. In Kent, they're assigned to crotchety Susan, who lives alone and suffers from bouts of depression. But the three warm to each other: Susan takes care of them in a loving (if a bit prickly) way, and Ada finds a sense of purpose and freedom of movement, thanks to Susan's pony, Butter. Ada finally feels worthy of love and respect, but when looming bombing campaigns threaten to take them away from Susan, her strength and resolve are tested. The home-front realities of WWII, as well as Ada's realistic anger and fear, come to life in Bradley's affecting and austerely told story, and readers will cheer for steadfast Ada as she triumphs over despair.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2014, American Library Association.)

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Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
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