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The War that Saved My Life, written by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley,[1] is a 2015 children’s middle grade historical book published by Dial Books for Young Readers. The War that Saved My Life was a Newbery Honor Book in 2016 and was Bradley’s first Newbery Honor Book.[2]

The War that Saved My Life
The War That Saved My Life.jpg
AuthorKimberly Brubaker Bradley
CountryUnited States
GenreHistorical Fiction
PublisherDial Books for Young Readers
Publication date
Media typePrint
Followed byThe War I Finally Won 



Ada is a ten-year-old girl who has never left her apartment in London. Her abusive mother 'Mam' is too embarrassed to let her go outside because of her clubfoot (a twisted foot) even though she claims it was run over by a brewers cart. Ada is forced to spend her days inside a one-bedroom apartment with only a window that lets her see the outside world. She spends her entire life crawling and can barely stand up. She cooks and takes care of her six-year-old brother Jamie.

The year is 1939 and World War II has started. The government begins to evacuate children out from London, to escape from the war, sending them to the countryside. Ada's mother does not know if she will send Jamie but does not want to send Ada. She tells Ada that nobody will want to take care of her, and refuses to send her away. Ada has spent all summer teaching herself how to walk and decides to leave with Jamie without their mother knowing.

When they arrive in the countryside, nobody wants Ada and Jamie. Susan lives alone in a house with two floors and makes it very clear that she does not want kids, thinking she is not fit to care for them. Ada's experience in the countryside is very different from her life in London. She is able to experience the outside and actually talk to people!, in contrast to her life in London where she was abused physically and mentally. Ada's low self-esteem prevents her from appreciating everything that Susan is doing for her. In the countryside, Ada teaches herself to ride a pony and learns how to read and write. Moreover, in the countryside, Ada learns that her clubfoot had nothing to do with her intelligence whatsoever.

After months of Susan trying to contact Ada's mother for permission to operate on Ada's foot, Ada's mom took the children away. She brings them back to London where she has moved to a new apartment and threw Ada's crutches away. Continuing to abuse Ada and refusing to let her outside, she is not interested in taking care of her or Jamie and only moved them back because it was going to be cheaper for her. As bombs start going everywhere Ada and Jamie leave the house to find shelter. They see that Susan came back for them, then after Ada confronts her mother and finds a way for her and Jamie to move in permanently with Susan. The story ends with Ada and Jamie being able to live with Susan but a bomb struck Susan's home while they were away, completely obliterating it. Now, Ada and Jamie had returned the favor of Susan taking them in by saving Susan's life from the bombs.


Main CharactersEdit

  • Ada Smith: The protagonist of the story. Ada is a ten-year-old girl with a clubfoot (right foot). She has been abused by her mother physically and mentally( in example her mother would beat her and scare her by threatening her brother Jamie). She learns how to walk, write and ride horses after running away from her mother to the house.
  • Jamie Smith: Ada's brother. He is a six-year-old child, who discovers his passion for planes when he and Ada move to the countryside.
  • Susan Smith: Ada and Jamie's designated guardian. She is not a nice person at first but learns to love and take care of both Ada and Jamie.

Secondary CharactersEdit

  • Ada and Jamie's Mother (Mam): An uncaring, stern, aggressive, and abusive mother who continuously blames Ada for her "ugly foot". Known as "Mam" throughout the book she is also one of the main characters
  • Stephen White: Ada's friend. He helps Ada in the train station and carries her to the train. He also cares for Colonel McPherson and does not leave with his mother, his brother is one of Jamie's friends
  • Billy White: Jamie's friend. He is Stephen's younger brother and leaves the countryside shortly with his mother and sisters.
  • Lady Thorton: The head of the Women's Volunteer Service. Known as "Iron Face Lady" in the book. Also the mother of Maggie.
  • Becky: Susan's best friend, who died three years ago from pneumonia.
  • Dr. Graham: Ada and Jamie's doctor in Kent.
  • Butter: Susan's pony. He was a gift from Becky to Susan. Ada quickly fell in love with Butter and learned to ride him.
  • Colonel Robert McPherson: Stephen's new guardian. He is a veteran of the British Army.
  • Fred Grimes: In charge of Lady Thorton's horses. A friend of Ada.
  • Bovril: Jamie's cat. Jamie picked it up when he was coming home from school.
  • Maggie: Ada's friend who goes to boarding school. Ada met Maggie when Maggie's horse threw her off and Ada helped her get home and helped her wounds.
  • Daisy: She helps Ada get drinks for the soldiers. She is also Ada's friend.
  • David: He makes a quick appearance and also a soldier.

Awards and NominationsEdit

  • Mark Twain Readers Award 2017[3]
  • William Allen White Award 2017
  • Newbery Honor Book HONOR 2016
  • Odyssey Award AWARD 2016
  • Schneider Family Book Award AWARD 2016
  • Winner of the Schneider Family Book Award (Middle School)
  • Winner of the Josette Frank Award
  • Wall Street Journal Best Children’s Books of 2015
  • New York Public Library’s 100 Books for Reading and Sharing
  • Chicago Public Library’s Best of the Best Books 2015
  • Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2015
  • Kirkus Best Books of 2015
  • Horn Book Fanfare Book 2015[4]


The War That Saved My Life received very good reviews. The Horn Book Magazine claims "This is a feel-good story, but an earned one".[5] School Library Journal talks about the emotional connection readers will have "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".[6] Thom Barthelmess in The Horn Book Magazine stated "Bradley’s novel is exceptional for the characters’ deep humanity".[7]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Bradley, Kimberly. "Home - Kimberly Brubaker Bradley". Retrieved 2016-04-11.
  2. ^ "The War that Saved my Life | Awards & Grants". Retrieved 2018-05-25.
  3. ^ 2017-2018 MASL Readers Awards Winners
  4. ^ The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley |
  5. ^ Parravano, Martha V. (January 2015). "The War That Saved My Life". The Horn Book Guide: 76–77 – via Academic Search Complete.
  6. ^ Kahn, Brenda (November 2014). "The War That Saved My Life". School Library Journal: 97 – via Academic Search Complete.
  7. ^ Thom Barthelmess (July 2015). "The War That Saved My Life". The Horn Book: 163–164 – via Academic Search Complete.

Preceded by
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library
Mark Twain Award
Succeeded by