The War That Saved My Life


  • Written by: Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
  • Age Range: 9 – 12 years
  • Grade Level: 4 – 7
  • Lexile Measure: 0580
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Puffin Books; Reprint edition (May 31, 2016)

Summary: Ada was born with a physical deformity of her foot, and her mother treats her as though it was her fault. She hits and emotionally abuses Ada, while keeping her locked in their apartment in London. When World War II breaks out, Ada and her younger brother, Jamie, escape out of the city in order to avoid the war. They are placed with Susan Smith, a childless woman, who believes she cannot take care of children. Through their new lives Ada realizes all of the things that she missed out on, while trapped in her mothers abusive trap. She learns about herself, her foot, her fears, and her talents. What will happen when the War ends though? Which world will she be forced to survive in, her past or her future?  

5 keywords: Historical Fiction, Heroism, Abroad, World War II, Middle Grade Novel. 

Common Core State Standard: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.4.4
Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. (Grade-specific expectations for writing types are defined in standards 1-3 above.)

Suggested Delivery: Class read-a-loud 

Electronic Resources: This video would be great as a pre-reading activity for the novel. Not only is it a great way to get the students ready to read this book but it gets them motivated to do so.

This video is of Winston Churchill’s speech, in regards to the War, and British motivation. This can be used towards the end of the book as the story is becoming more War centered. Part of his speech is mentioned in the book. At that part pause and show this clip. Speeches are written for the public but the time period of this speech may make it hard to comprehend all of it. Explain the background of this speech and its significance to students. Even better, ask them why they think this speech was made, in light of what they have read. What is the significance to this speech and how did it impact Ada as she heard it? 

Teaching Guide: I LOVE this teaching guide by Penguin Random House. Not only does it have literal/inferential questions, but they are organized by pages for the teacher, and they include text to self, text to world, schema and vocabulary rich questions. This guide also included an author Q and A which is highly informative.

Website: Here is a blog written about the publishing of The War That Saved My Life, written by the author. It gives a great discussion to the publishing process and serves as a lesson to students that their work is never complete, it’s just due.

Key Vocabulary: 

Imp – A child who causes trouble in a funny way

Walloped – To hit someone/something hard 

Loo – Bathroom 

Shabbiest – In poor condition

Indeterminate – When you can’t describe something with fact – The kids did not know how old they truly are 

Imprudent – Not wise 

Inquire – To ask

Malnourished – Not eating enough 

Successfully Resolved – The problem went away without an issue 

Gullet – Tube that leads from mouth to stomach (esophagus)

Chilblains – Painful and red swelling on the feet, usually caused by the cold

Sonorous – A sound that is deep, loud and sounds good

Asylum – A hospital for the mentally ill

Educable – Can be educated

Negligent – Failure to take care of something/someone 

Affront – Formal

Curmudgeon – An old person who is easily annoyed 

Standoffish – Not friendly towards other people

Mollified – To calm someone down 

Cajoled – To persuade someone to do something 

Before: Prior to reading this book, complete a pre-assessment to World War II. This will be done in a true/false answer sheet. 

T/F Children and families were separated during WWII.

T/F Before WWII children were not required to go to school.

T/F World War II did not have any impacts on England.

T/F People had to ration, or eat their food slowly during wartime. 

T/F The radio was the best way to get information during WWII.

T/F Many spies worked for the governments of England, Germany and the US during WWII.

T/F It was common to live with people other than your parents during this time. 

T/F World War II started in 1939.

T/F Hitler was the Prime Minister of England. 

Based on the answers to these, scaffold the students accordingly. They will need a lot of this background information while the text is read. This can happen prior to reading or while the parts that are relevant to these questions comes up. 

During: While reading The War That Saved My Life use the text as a model. Have mini lessons and quick writes as you read the story. Some example prompts could be – At the end of chapter 24, what would you do if you had broken someones things? 

When Ada’s mom comes to get her – What do you think Ada is going to do and why? 

When Ada runs away and has trouble walking – Do you think that Ada has the stamina to make it to a safe place? 

Ada goes into her head – Why do you think Ada does this? Have you ever done this? 

If you were Mam, would you have given Ada the surgery? Why or why not. If not, why do you feel you would not get her surgery? 

After: Ask the students to reflect on the story. Have a discussion as to what they are taking away from this story.What would they do if they were in Ada’s situation? How would they feel? Have a discussion about the bad ways in which Ada was treated, in regards to her foot, and examples of when she was treated kindly. Teach children from what they observed in the text to greet and treat people who may have deformities or physical aliments. Text to self – do they relate to the characters/story in any way? Text to text – have they read any other stories where similar things happened? 

Writing Activity: Taking from the Penguin Random House reading guide, use the prompt for after reading activities. Ask the students to write a letter from the perspective of either Ada, Jamie, or Susan. The audience of the letter is Mam. Discuss active and passive voice, and tone with the students. Obviously their tone, attitudes and judgments of Mam will be different depending on the character they choose. Their letter must include an introduction, or explanation for why they are writing that letter. They should have a few body paragraphs which explain their situation and current life circumstances. This will show literal comprehension, as the students have to remember setting, characters, events and conversations. This activity also includes inferential comprehension because it asks the reader to put on the voice of a character, which means they have to interpret personality, temperament, and tone of voice, which is highly inferential. 


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s