Three years ago, high in the mountains in Maine I stayed up until 4:15 in the morning because I couldn’t put down Kirby Larson’s Hattie Big Sky. I was so absorbed in my reading that the world ceased to exist for a while. I was that reader growing up. I was the one who always said, “Just one more chapter.” Hattie Big Sky had all the pieces I craved in a story. There was a strong girl character and good historical information to learn and excellent writing. Interestingly enough though, I tend to fall in love with supporting characters. As I’ve mentioned before I adored Vola in Pax and in Hattie Big Sky I found Perilee to be so intriguing.
This weekend I dropped everything and read Brubaker Bradley’s The War that Saved my Life. I was racing merrily along in the book, when my eight-year-old daughter Annie decided she wanted to hear it. So, I read the rest aloud to her. We stayed in our pajamas all day on Sunday tucked between the sheets, stopping only to use the bathroom or make more tea. It was scrumptious. This book was riveting. Set in London in 1939, Ada and her brother Jamie live with their horribly abusive Mam in a cramped apartment. Ada has a crippled foot–later identified as Club Foot. Her mother hasn’t allowed her out in public for her entire life which is about ten years. The opportunity to escape her mother arrives when Ada finds out children in London are being evacuated to the countryside in case of bombing. Ada wakes up early with Jamie and, despite never walking before or having even left her apartment, she bravely escapes to the train station where they are relocated to the house of one of my favorite characters of all time, Miss Susan Smith. It is at Susan’s house that they learn about love, character, and personal choice. Along the way, the reader learns about how children were relocated and damaged by wartime. There are some tough scenes, but Annie who tends to be oversensitive loved this book. She asked intellectual questions about the evacuee children and about World War II vs World War I. I’m hoping I’ve got a historical fiction fan on my team now!
I think one of the most important pieces about this book is that it is written sensitively for children. With adults, she might have gone deeper into certain topics, but she kept it as children would have seen it and I loved that aspect. Kudos to writers who understand and write for their intended readers.