The War that Saved My Life provides intermediate grade readers with a unique look at WWII. Most historical fiction that is written about this time period focuses on the Holocaust and the plight of Jews. Many children have read or heard about concentration camps, but have given little thought to other effects of the war. Kimberly Brubaker Bradley has written a story that provides a look into the experience of children that were evacuated from London for safety.
The main character, Ada, is a courageous and strong girl who must overcome immense emotional and physical abuse from her mother. Born with a clubfoot, Ada’s mother confines her to their flat and convinces her she’s worthless. Until her younger brother Jamie starts going to school, Ada hasn’t ever tried to stretch the limits her mother has placed on her. However, not being able to watch after Jamie as he ventures off, and feeling left behind, spurs Ada secretly teaches herself to walk. With the approaching war, Jamie is going to be sent to the country for safety, but Ada discovers her mother has no such plan for her, but will leave her confined to the apartment to meet whatever fate comes. Ada runs away and joins Jamie on the train to safety, and a chance at life.
The War that Saved My Life does a wonderful job portraying the historical time period and events, as well as the emotional and physical abuse and Ada’s subsequent reactions. The reader will enjoy Ada’s journey as she learns to trust herself and people around her. There are a few scenes that seem far fetched, but overall this is a sound story.