The War that Saved My Life

the war that saved my life

Title: The War that Saved My Life
Author: Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Publisher: Dial Books
Year of Publication: 2015
Genre: historical fiction

Ten-year-old Ada and her little brother, Jamie, were born to a cruel, unloving mother. “Mam” is ashamed of Ada’s clubfoot, and refuses to let her leave their tiny London flat. Mam flies off the handle regularly and hurls verbal insults, and her fists, at the children. Ada takes the brunt of the abuse, and is often locked into a tiny, roach-infested cupboard. As Hitler’s troops and the threat of bombing become imminent, English parents are ordered to send their children to the countryside. Mam refuses to let Ada evacuate with Jamie, but the young heroine finds a way to outwit her. The siblings end up in a small coastal village, under the care of Susan, who immediately declares that she is “not nice”. Though she is in the midst of deep grief over the recent death of her partner, Becky, Susan warms to the children. Under her care, and with fresh air, regular meals, and a newfound passion (and talent) for horseback riding, Ada blossoms. Her joy and hope are marred by a sense of dread. When will she and Jamie have to return to Mam? What will happen to them then?

Strong characters and a believable description of World War II events make this book a wonderful read. The topics for discussion are plentiful: clubfoot, abuse, neglect, Operation Pied Piper, grief, spies, ponies, hope, friendship, bomb shelters, family, resilience, and the list goes on. A subtlety I appreciate about the novel is that one can infer that the relationship between Susan and Becky was deeper than friendship. The fact that the author doesn’t come out directly and say this is so gives their relationship a sense of (much deserved) normalcy.

Wolfie the Bunny

wolfie the bunny, siblings in picture books

Title: Wolfie the Bunny
Author: Ame Dyckman
Illustrator: Zachariah OHora
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Year of Publication: 2015

Oh, how I love this book! Dot the bunny is not amused when her parents decide to adopt the baby wolf left in a basket on their doorstep. She tries in vain to convince her parents that Wolfie is a wolf, and is sure to gobble them all up.

wolfie the bunny

Dot may be wary of her new sibling, but Mama and Papa Bunny absolutely adore him. Like any younger sibling, Wolfie enjoys following his older sister around. When he accompanies her to the local Carrot Patch Co-op (home of local, organic, lucky bamboo!), a hungry bear shows up and Dot’s true feelings for her “little” brother emerge.

wolfie the bunny, hugs

When I read this book to my kids, Caden (my oldest) nudged me and glanced sideways at his little sister. Likewise, when I shared this with students in the library there were cries of “My brother does that, too!” and “My sister always follows me around!”. In addition to sibling related conversations, Wolfie the Bunny provides an opportunity to compare and contrast a wolf’s typical role in a picture book: the bad guy. Truth be told, the reason I adore this book has less to do with the sweet story and more to do with the illustrations. The illustrations! The vibrant, vintage look of Zachariah OHora’s art brings this humorous story to life. Head on over to your local library and check it out!