Whoo-hoo! Another audio book review! One to go on our “top ten” list, too.
* * *
Ada and her little brother Jamie live in a one-room flat in London with their Mam. It’s 1939, and a war with Germany is looming. Ada doesn’t know much about the war; because she has a ‘bad foot’, Mam doesn’t allow her to ever leave their room, even for school. She has grown up staying in the flat all day, sitting for hours in the chair by the window, watching Jamie play with his friends and waving at neighbors she’s never met. Unless it’s a day that Mam is angry with her, then she’s stuffed into the cupboard under the sink or not given any food.
One day, Jamie comes home with the news that the children from their neighborhood are being evacuated to the country because the government is expecting London to be bombed. Mam scoffs, but decides that one less mouth to feed might be a good thing. She’s not letting Ada go though. No, Mam says Ada has to stay and get bombed, if it comes to that. Both children protest, but Mam locks them in and leaves for the pub.
No one at school knows Ada even exists, but she’s determined to go away with Jamie. Her practice standing on her bad foot comes in handy for their escape. When the morning comes to evacuate on the train, she steals her mother’s shoes and limps, then crawls, then gets a lift from one of Jamie’s friends. Ada and Jamie make it to the country…only to be left out when everyone else is chosen. Not one villager seems to want two dirty children with no belongings.
Then Lady Thornton, the woman in charge of the evacuated children, takes them in hand and leaves them to stay with Susan Smith, in a big old empty house. Even though Miss Smith claims she is unkind and unfit to care for children, living with her is better than living with Mam. As Ada and Jamie start exploring the world around them, fall in love with horses (Ada) and planes (Jamie), they start to trust Susan. But will Susan want to keep them? Will the war reach them, even in the country? Will their Mam come to take them away, as the other refuge children are taken back? And what about spies?
A little bit adventure, a little bit coming-of age, a little bit historical fiction, this is an amazing story about strength and courage and family. The War That Saved My Life was a 2016 Newbery Award Honor Book Winner.
The sound recording of The War That Saved My Life is simply wonderful. I loved the narrator, Jayne Entwistle. She did a terrific job finding each character’s voice, and I was truly impressed at how she could infuse her voice with emotions. You could hear the laughter and the tears in her voice as Ada spoke. This audio book is right up there in my top ten recordings of children’s books. It also won the 2016 Odyssey Award for Excellence in Audio Production, so I’m not the only one to think that way!
The War That Saved My Life is for kids in grades 5 – 8, although I think adults would enjoy it just as much as their kids do. The sound recording would be great to share on a family car trip, although it might be difficult for a child younger than nine or ten, because of some tough subject matter. (In addition to the consequences of being at war and the loss of loved ones, Ada and Jamie’s Mam is a thoroughly horrible person, and her treatment of the children might be difficult to hear.) Listening to it as a family though, would provide some great groundwork for discussion about war, and families, and strength of spirit.
* * *
Remember, if you would like recommendations for book or books on CD, ask one of our librarians. Or check out some of our earlier recommendations here at BellaOnBooks!