Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

The War That Saved My Life

Penguin Random House 2015. 316 pages
First published: 2015
ISBN: 9780803740815 (hardcover)
9780147510488 (paperback)
9781101637807 (e-book)
Original language: English
Book type: Novel
Book genre: Historical

Text Elements:

character, conflict, point of view, setting

Awards

E.B. White Read-Aloud Honor Book – 2015
Newbery Honor Book – 2016

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

As the Second World War looms, 10-year-old Ada and her younger brother Jamie are evacuated from London along with scores of other children. Ada, who has a disabled foot, has endured endless abuse, including from her own mother. She finds it hard to accept her new guardian’s kindness. “There are all kinds of wars,” Ada knows, psychological as well as geopolitical. But the two slowly bond, and Susan even works to heal Ada’s club foot and obtain the necessary medical interventions. Bolstered by Susan’s support, Ada learns to ride a horse and read, and spends time watching for German spies—even catching one. As the girl grapples with her fear of abandonment, her longing for maternal love and her anger, she realizes sadly, “There’s things worse than bombs.”

Ada’s abuse at the hands of her mother is hard to fathom: locked up at home all her life because she is considered a “cripple,” Ada has never owned shoes or used a toilet. Despite her considerable trauma, she is a sweet and spirited character: polite, grateful and protective of her brother. Her first-person narrative is accessible and engaging, with short scenes and well-paced sentences; the diction is often quaintly evocative of mid-century Britain. Despite the war that rages on across Europe, Ada’s countryside universe, as she discovers the world, feels like a privileged place. And while she has always felt self-reliant—“I had never needed taking care of”—Ada ultimately realizes what parental care should be.

  •  

    Research the evacuation of children from London in 1939. Discuss what it might have been like for these children. Imagine having to leave your own home under the threat of war.

  •  

    Compare the representations of family in this story with those in other books and with your own personal experiences. Write a definition of family.

  •  

    Do you think the portrayal and treatment of Jamie and Ada’s mother is fair?

  •  

    Throughout the novel, the characters confront many feelings (sadness, fear, anger, grief). Notice the different ways they process and express these emotions.

  •  What is the possible relevance of Ada’s story to current events?
  •  

    As the story is read aloud, create a mind map. Add the historical elements to your classroom timeline.

  •  In pairs, create character maps for Ada, Jamie, their mother and Susan.
  •  

    Discuss Ada’s medical situation. Should the doctor have to wait for the mother’s authorization before operating on her foot? Write a paragraph arguing why the doctor should operate.

  •  

    Research the types of military airplanes Jamie might find at the air strip. What were their special features? Make a poster presentation of these airplanes.

  •  

    In a possible sequel to the story, what is their new life after the bombing?

  •  

    Using teacher-selected resources, take notes about the plight of British children evacuees of World War II. Do you agree with the decision to break up families to save the children? Use your notes to defend your opinion.

  •  

    Write a persuasive letter to the doctor imploring him to operate on Ada despite the fact that there is no money to pay him.

  •  

    Write the first chapter of a sequel in which the children begin a new life after the war.

  •  Research a true story of British children who were sent to Canada. Find a creative way to share their story.
  • To communicate appropriately
  • To construct his/her identity
  • To exercise critical judgment
  • To use creativity
  • Health and Well-Being
  • Personal and Career Planning
  • Personal Development
  • Social Sciences