Published by Text Publishing Company on 16 May 2016
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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.
War is looming over England. Children are being sent away from London to avoid the expected bombing, but Ada has never left the tiny flat she shares with her mother and little brother, Jamie. Ada has an untreated clubfoot that she cannot walk on, and her mother says that a cripple like her cannot go outside like a normal child. But when Jamie is due to head to his school to be evacuated to the country, Ada sneaks out to join him. This is the first time Ada has been outside, and the first time she sees trees, grass, or anything other than the London street she grew up looking at through her window.
Jamie and Ada are extremely lucky to be not picked by any of the families in the Kent village where they end up, but are forced onto the young Miss Smith, who never wanted children but treats them with kindness and respect. Ada will not allow any of the kindness she finds in her new home into her heart, as she’s sure that any moment her Mam will arrive to take her and Jamie back to London.
This is Ada’s sometimes heartbreaking, but ultimately empowering story of finding the strength that was always in her, and learning how to be loved, as well as love in return. It is aimed at middle-grade readers, and there is plenty in this story to enchant them between the wartime way of life, spy-catching and air raids.
The emotional side of the story will also appeal to older readers, as it did for me. I was heartbroken at Ada’s mother’s treatment of her, as well as the way Ada reacted when eventually shown kindness. The mother in me was horrified, while my inner small child gasped with wonder at Ada’s discovery of a grassy field, of the ocean, of riding horses.
The War That Saved My Life is the poignant and uplifting story of a young girl and her journey towards hope and acceptance, set against a wartime backdrop. A recommended read for everyone, not just the middle-graders.