The War That Saved My Life

by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Paperback, 2016

Call number



Puffin Books (2016), Edition: Reprint, 336 pages


A young disabled girl and her brother are evacuated from London to the English countryside during World War II, where they find life to be much sweeter away from their abusive mother.

User reviews

LibraryThing member Whisper1
This wonderful book is well deserving of the Newbery honor it received. Each time I read a stellar young adult book, in particular some of the Newbery-award winners, I am more and more drawn to the YA genre. I'm glad to see it recognized with a special section in Barnes and Noble. I hope that gone
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are the days when readers with pinkies in the air cast aspersions on these incredible books. It is fine if you tried it and don't like it, but to categorize it as useless is for me, difficult to understand.

This book beautifully covers intense topics such as childhood abuse, poverty, loneliness, World War II, and it stunningly, amazingly shows how a determined young girl with all cards stacked against her, increasingly develops strong self confidence and fortitude.

Ada's mother is abusive, neglectful and very intentionally mean spirited. Born with a club foot, Ada never received the treatment needed. Now at ten years old, she cannot walk, but crawls around the floor of a one-room apartment above a pub. Called a cripple and a dim wit by her mother, she was always confined to this one room.

People passing by thought her challenged, still she longed for them to wave back at her. When the threat of the bombing of London occurs, Ada's younger brother Jamie is on the list to be sent to the countryside. Ada stubbornly learns how to walk and leaves the apartment with him.

When they arrive, after a long train ride, no one wants her. They will take Jamie, but not a cripple. Insisting that they remain together, Ada waits for someone to take them. The person in charge delivers them to the home of a woman who is intensely depressed because of a love loss, and while she takes them in, originally doesn't want them.

As the story unfolds, Ada learns to ride a pony, learns to read, and gains self confidence. She and her brother are loved and well fed, both of these never happened while with their mother.

When mommy dearest comes to claim them, Ada now must literally stand to say no to abuse and yes to love.

This is a story of two children who rescue a woman who in turn rescues them.

A lovely, lovely book to be read again and again.

Five Stars, with the thought that it should have been the Newbery medal winner.
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LibraryThing member jnwelch
The War That Saved My Life was a great read. Many thanks to Amber for recommending it.

In WWII-era London, pre-adolescent Ada has a club foot and a mother who seems to despise her for it. Unable to walk, she's abused and imprisoned at home, taking care of her younger brother Jamie while her mother
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works at a pub. Everything changes when the children are evacuated with others from London to a country village because of expected bombing from the Germans. There they are brought into the home of single Susan, who has lost a dear friend and is unsure of whether she can handle them. She is brought around in large part by Ada's rough honesty and Ada's love for Jamie. In turn Ada experiences intelligent parenting from Susan, learns to ride and care for her pony Butter, and begins to heal from the trauma she has experienced. The war soon makes demands on all of them, and when Mam reappears, Susan, Ada and Jamie all must decide what they mean to each other.

Great characters and a realistic view of the war help make this a real page-turner. Loved it.
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LibraryThing member bell7
Ada has a clubfoot and her mother has abused/neglected her all her life, but when her brother Jamie is sent away from London to the country for safety during the air raids, she takes the opportunity to run away from home. The children are reluctantly taken in by an old maid, Susan, who tells them
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she isn't very nice - but she doesn't hit like Ada's mother did and has a pony named Butter that Ada is determined to ride.

This is a heartbreaking, lovely book. Ada is a strong, independent girl but deals with her abuse in a very realistic way - the scenes of this were probably even harder for me to read as an adult because I understood what was happening more than I would have as a child. I cried and cheered as Ada began to overcome her past and trust Susan, and as Susan herself came to love the children. Details about riding as Ada learns to ride Butter and some aspects of the war fill out the narrative. The ending felt just a little bit rushed and neat, but overall it was a satisfying read and I can see why it's won such acclaim.
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LibraryThing member knitwit2
Ada and Jaime have known a very limited life in London. Ada, who can barely walk due to a club foot has been abused by their mother and kept prisoner in their one room apartment for the entirety of her life. Jaime has suffered their mother’s neglect and has been left unsupervised to roam the
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dangerous streets of London. Neither child has ever seen a doctor, both are malnourished and suffer from a number of maladies that could easily be treated. When the children learn that there are trains taking children to the countryside to protect them from the German bombings in London they see this as their chance to escape their mother’s brutality.
In Kent the children are placed with Susan Smith who is suffering a devastating personal loss and is coping poorly with her grief and depression. The responsibility of caring for Ada and Jaime force her to rejoin the living. As Susan attempts to heal the ailing bodies and damaged psyches of her charges she begins to see that life may still offer her happiness and love. As the children heal so too, does Susan.
Because Ada is the narrator the reader may tend to think that the words “My Life” in the title refer to Ada’s life when in fact those words apply to all three characters, Ada, Jaime, and Susan.
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LibraryThing member imtanner2
Ada lives with her mom and her brother Jamie in London in 1940. Ada isn't allowed to leave the house because one of her feet is deformed. But when the kids are evacuated from London to the countryside, Ada goes too. They end up with a single woman who doesn't really want kids but takes them anyway.
LibraryThing member 4hounds
Really loved this. The protagonist's determination to rely on herself, to not hope - since that's what she'd learned from her mother - and her growing past that were so wonderfully portrayed. And the parallel growth in Susan, who believed she was ostracized and finds that that's not completely true
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is also so well done. I truly cared about these characters and hope there's a sequel!
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LibraryThing member foggidawn
Ten-year-old Ada has never left her family's London apartment. Her mother is ashamed of Ada's club foot and refuses to let her appear in public. When Ada's little brother Jamie comes home from school with the news that children in London are being evacuated to the countryside because of the danger
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of bombings, Ada hatches a daring plan: she knows her mother would not give her permission to go, but what if she were to go anyway? She sneaks out with Jamie on the morning the children are to leave, and just like that, enters what might as well be another world. In the country, Jamie and Ada are placed with Susan, a spinster who did not intend to take in children. Slowly, Ada and Jamie learn to trust Susan, and Susan learns to care for, and even love, the children. But what will happen when the war ends and Ada and Jamie must return to London?

This book has a multitude of strengths (plot, pacing, setting to name a few) but the characters are what make it really stand out. Each of the three main characters has a distinct and beautifully rendered emotional journey as the story progresses, and I was completely wrapped up in their lives while reading. I would not be surprised to see it garner some accolades when awards are handed out this winter!
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LibraryThing member ewyatt
This was a moving and at times disturbing book about a girl and her brother trying to survive growing up in an abusive home and survive World War II. Ada has been kept inside the one room apartment all her life as her mother is ashamed of her clubfoot. When she finds out kids are being evacuated
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from London for safety, she takes her younger brother Jamie to get out. They end up being taken in by a woman in the countryside named Susan. Every person is carrying a significant amount of emotional baggage that requires significant work.
A compelling, moving story. I learned a lot about life in England during World War II, but also found the story itself moving.
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LibraryThing member Brainannex
Very worthy of its Newbery Honor. Ada is told by her mother that she is stupid and an invalid because of her club foot. When the children of the city are evacuated to more rural areas because of German bombing, she and her brother Jamie are housed with Susan Smith, a woman who is one of the best
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grown-up characters I've read in a mg novel. The resulting story is heartbreaking and awesome all at the same time. Side note- I do wonder if Ada is named after the Ada in The Poisonwood Bible- there are some resonances between the two.
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LibraryThing member sgrame
Ada only knows about the world from the small view of a London street that she can see from her apartment window. Her mother thinks she is a disgrace as she was born with a clubfoot, and although both she and her little brother Jamie feel the sting of neglect and abuse, Ada bores the brunt by far.
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When the threat of WW II comes close to home, the children are sent to a village to live and Ada takes it upon herself to teach herself to walk as best as she can and escape to safety with the other children. No one wants the tattered children when they arrive at the village, but a single woman named Susan is forced to take them in. As time goes on, they bond into a sort of a family and Ada struggles with becoming the normal child she was meant to be while the chains of abuse hold her back emotionally. This very powerful story about war seen through the eyes of a child with disabilities, being brave while being terrified and the bond between a sister and a brother is one that resonates beyond the war story. This 316 page award-winning book is an excellent choice for book discussion and would interest grades 4-6.
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LibraryThing member 2wonderY
Having read Goodnight, Mr. Tom and recently, Crooked Heart, I have excellent examples of this type of story. While this story is adequately told, it suffers in comparison. Bradley moves through the narrative arc in a superficial and unconvincing way. She hits the emotional points correctly, but the
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in-betweens lack any substance. This kind of emotional and physical healing deserves to be given the time necessary. Because of the books' brevity, it felt like an outright theft and bastardization of Magorian's more fully realized drama.

(I see that other LT readers have noted similar issues with Bradley's other historical fiction.)

I suppose it might be a good first reading of the subject for young adolescents; but for a seasoned reader, it was unsatisfactory.
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LibraryThing member ChristianR
This book needs exposure -- it was very moving. Ada and her brother Jamie live in London with their mother. World War II is about to begin. Ada has a club foot, and her mother is utterly horrible to her. She treats Jamie slightly better, but their children don't receive any love or affection. Just
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derision and cruelty. When children in London are evacuated before the bombing, Ada manages to escape with Jamie. It appears at first that they are again unlucky with their placement, because the woman who is forced to take them doesn't want any children. Over time these three emotionally wounded people bond and grow to love each other. Beautifully written. The war is present throughout.
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LibraryThing member Cheryl_in_CC_NV
Enthused about by Rebecca of GMGR; others by the author look interesting, too...
LibraryThing member rata
excellent, evokes a lot of emotion and discussion about then and now and how perceptions have changed so much towards disabilities and poverty etc. This book is a must read for years 10 -15 as it will create a lot of discussion around historical events and help readers understand why things are the
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way they are.
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LibraryThing member MsHooker
[The War That Saved My Life] by [Kimberly Brubaker Bradley] is a well told story of a young girl in London who has a mother that is ashamed of her. She uses World War II as a way to escape her mother with her young brother to the countryside when children are evacuated from the city. They are
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placed with a single woman who is suffering from demons of her own.

This coming of age story shows how we all fight wars within ourselves each day and sometimes it takes allowing others to help you to win those wars.
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LibraryThing member NickiSlater
Ten year old Ada was born with a club foot. Her mother uses this disability to physically and emotionally abuse her. Ada is forced to stay out of public view while her younger brother is free to play and go to school. The abuse of Ada is beginning to escalate as WWII approaches England's borders,
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and the British government evacuates London's children to caretakers all over the countryside. Ada's brother, Jamie, is on the transport list. She is not. Knowing she cannot survive her mother's wrath alone, Ada decides to run away and hide among the evacuees with Jamie. The children finally get placed with a recluse named Susan. She is forced to take the children because no one else chose them from the line up. Over time a close knit family-type relationship is forged between the three. This story will break your heart over the abuse Ada suffers and make you cheer out loud when things go right. The explosive ending will make you long for another chapter so you can continue the journey with Ada, Jamie and Susan.
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LibraryThing member Sullywriter
A wonderfully written, richly layered story set in England in the early years if World War II.
LibraryThing member TerriS
This is a YA novel & I LOVED it! It is a very touching story of 10-year-old Ada, and her younger brother, Jamie, who live in the slums of London at the beginning of WWII. Ada was born with a clubfoot and her mother chose not to have it fixed when Ada was born. Now she won't let Ada leave their
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apartment for any reason because she is so ashamed of her. So Ada has not gone to school, she hasn't even seen grass! But she's smart. And when her brother comes home from school talking about many of the children of London being evacuated to the English countryside for safety, Ada figures out a way for them to leave their horrible mother and the London slums. But will they like it there, and if they do, can they figure out a way to stay? And therein lies the beginning of what becomes a very touching and exciting story. It is recommended for Grades 4-6, but I really liked it and highly recommend it for all ages!
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LibraryThing member nrandles
This is a emotionally poignant historical fiction novel set in England during WWII. From the start, you will feel for ten-year old Ada who was born with a clubbed foot. Her mother abuses her and neglects her as she is ashamed that she is a "cripple". Ada cares for her younger brother Jamie and is
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confined to her small apartment. When Jamie is sent with the other children to evacuate London, Ada finds the strength to secretly join him. The two siblings are placed in a home with Susan, a feminist who is dealing with her own loss. The three grow as characters as they learn lessons in love and family. Readers will be cheering on Ada as she grows as a person and overcomes obstacles. This heartfelt book is full of adventure.
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LibraryThing member Dianekeenoy
Thanks to Linda (Whisper1) for suggesting that I get this book! I bought this book for my grandson but of course, I needed to read it first! This takes place during WWII when London is sending their children to the country for safety. Ada is ten years old and has been kept trapped in her room by
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her mother because of her club foot. When she finds out that her younger brother, Jamie is going to the train to the country, she decides that she will go with him against her mother's wishes. They are the last children left and haven't been chosen by any of the townspeople in the little town where they will be staying. Susan Smith is forced to take them and none of them are happy about this. But, they are good for each other and start to bond as a family, although not easily. This is an excellent book and I look forward to discussing with my grandson once I give it to him!
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LibraryThing member csoki637
Ada doesn't know how old she is. She doesn't know what trees look like. All she knows is living in a one-room apartment with her brother, Jamie, and her mam. Because of her crippled foot, Mam doesn't let Ada leave the house; she can't walk, and she's never seen anything beyond their window. But as
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war with Germany approaches, the possibility of evacuating London with Jamie emerges, and Ada takes her chance. In the countryside, everything is bright and new. With crutches and a pony named Butter, Ada discovers a world she can take part in. But will any of it last?

At over 300 pages, Kimberly Brubaker Bradley's novel is long for a children's book, but the engaging story and complex characters make it a quick read. I appreciate the nuance with which she portrays traumatized children adjusting to a loving home. And am I write to assume—hope—Miss Smith is a lesbian? Can't wait to read the sequel!
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LibraryThing member byroade
I count this as the best book I read in 2015. This book combines a gripping historical fiction narrative with an emotionally rich and authentic story of children who have suffered terrible abuse and neglect and how they come to trust and love their guardian and begin to discover a world much wider
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than the London slum they came from. While this is a story of transformation and recovery, it is not a simplistic Cinderella story. Change is hard, trauma is deep, and even the most abused children love their mother. Bradley respects these emotional truths and depicts them clearly and carefully.

I've read the book twice and listened to the audio book twice, recommended it to many other people, and given multiple copies as gifts. Even my 11-year-old nephew loved it. I am really looking forward to the sequel!
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LibraryThing member PaperDollLady
Wonderful characters with a great story and excellent reading by Jayne Entwistle.
LibraryThing member libheroine
This is my favorite kids book of 2016. The story is simply narrated with a tough-as-nails, yet sweet and vulnerable girl, Ada, who has experienced limited exposure to the outside world, no thanks to an abusive mother who keeps her locked away out because she has a club foot. A rare peak into a
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probably realistic characterization of child abuse and ignorance during this time period; Bradley's novel is compelling, honest, heart-wrenching, and hardly simplistic despite the candid naivety of her main character as she makes her way into the outside world and discovers how to heal. Excellent audio performance; highly recommend.
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LibraryThing member MeganSchneider
I fell in love with this book. The book takes place during WWII and the reign of Hitler and it kept you wanting to read more, and remained a roller coaster through its entirety. Ada, a young girl born with an unfortunate birth defect and an even more unfortunate parent, Mam, looked after her
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brother Jamie through pain and suffering. Finally she grew the courage to flee with her brother, after a painful trail of teaching herself to walk, when an oppurtunity arose. Her and her brother were malnourished and very poorly cared for in the hygiene department so people taking in evacuees were not exactly "breaking down doors" to take them in. However, they found a home ,through the unrelenting demands from Lady Thorton, with a single lady named Ms. Susan. Ms. Susan "never asked for children", nor did she have any idea how to care for them, however took her new role very seriously. Ada took those words to heart and never really let Ms. Susan forget them, even after a very long period of being a loving, caring, and protective guardian. Without repeating the entire book, which I highly recommend, I will say this, it is well worth the read, even in your late twenties. The book keeps you on the edge of your seat until the very end, with one of the most genuine lines in the entire book.

Sidenote: There were many signs throughout the book that Susan was in a relationship with Becky, not just friendship. I wonder why the book never fully addressed this? Is it because it was set in a time where this was highly unacceptable or did the author feel it was necessary to give hints but never reveal this fact? It kept me wanting to read just to find out if she would ever reveal this fact to the children or not. I would really love to know why that relationship was necessary beyond the fact that Susan being highly depressed when the children first arrived and the children kind of relieving that pain in a sense.
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Nebraska Golden Sower Award (Nominee — 2017)
Young Hoosier Book Award (Nominee — Middle Grade — 2018)
Sequoyah Book Award (Nominee — Intermediate — 2018)
Georgia Children's Book Award (Finalist — Grades 4-8 — 2017)
Great Stone Face Book Award (Nominee — 2016)
Utah Beehive Book Award (Nominee — Children's Fiction — 2017)
Kentucky Bluegrass Award (Nominee — Grades 3-5 — 2017)
Sasquatch Book Award (Nominee — 2018)
William Allen White Children's Book Award (Nominee — Grades 6-8 — 2018)
Newbery Medal (Honor Book — 2016)
Nutmeg Book Award (Nominee — Intermediate — 2018)
Bluestem Award (Nominee — 2017)
Mark Twain Readers Award (Nominee — 2018)
Sunshine State Young Reader's Award (Nominee — Grades 3-5 — 2018)
Oregon Reader's Choice Award (Nominee — 2018)
Iowa Children's Choice Award (Nominee — 2018)
NCSLMA Battle of the Books (Middle School — 2020)
Virginia Readers' Choice (Nominee — Middle School — 2018)
Golden Archer Award (Nominee — Intermediate — 2019)
Josette Frank Award (Winner — 2016)
Black-Eyed Susan Book Award (Nominee — Grades 4-6 — 2017)
Odyssey Award (Winner — 2016)
Volunteer State Book Award (Nominee — Intermediate — 2018)
Isinglass Teen Read Award (Winner — 2016)
Maud Hart Lovelace Award (Nominee — 2018)
Lectio Book Award (Nominee — 2017)
Three Stars Book Award (Nominee — Middle Readers — 2018)
E.B. White Read-Aloud Award (Honor Book — 2015)
Schneider Family Book Award (Winner — Middle Grades — 2016)
Notable Children's Book (Middle Readers — 2016)
Nerdy Book Award (Middle Grade Fiction — 2015)
Chicago Public Library Best of the Best: Kids (Fiction for Older Readers — 2015)




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