The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. Dial, 2015
Ten-year-old Ada was born with a club foot that was never fixed and her abusive, financially struggling mother has kept her isolated all her life. The evacuation of London children during World War II gives Ada and her little brother, Jamie, a chance to escape their grim life. The two end up in a small village at the home of a woman named Susan Smith. There is not necessarily anything extraordinary or unpredictable in this satisfying story in which the three become a close and loving family except for the telling itself, which reveals refreshing complexities of characters and situations. As Ada, Jamie, and Susan adjust, it becomes clear that Ada, despite many seemingly idyllic elements of her new life, feels immense anger and grief over a mother who could not love her. Susan, too, is grieving—her former housemate died the year before and though it’s never stated, it’s clear the two women were a couple. Susan is also figuring out parenting and caretaking, tasks made more difficult by the children’s abusive history and the temporary nature of the arrangement. A nearby RAF airfield, the evacuation of Dunkirk, and the bombing of London all come into play in a story that also offers honesty regarding the hard truths of war but is ultimately full of the hope that comes with kindness and connection. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center
- Ada and James have quite a lot of freedom in Kent. Talk about times when you get to make your own decisions.
- The children find some great friends in the adults around them. Do you have any intergenerational friendships? How or why did these friendships begin?
- What is it about Stephen that allows him to more easily befriend people that society views as different?
- How did the war save Ada’s life? Do you currently see war impacting lives around you?
Lillian’s Right to Vote: A Celebration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by Jonah Winter. Illustrated by Shane W. Evans. Schwartz & Wade, 2015
“A very old woman stands at the bottom of a very steep hill. It’s Voting Day, she’s an American, and by God, she is going to vote. Lillian is her name.” An informative picture book covers an expanse of history and emotion as 100-year-old Lillian ascends the hill, reflecting on African Americans and voting. Her great-great-grandparents were sold on the auction block in front of a courthouse where only white men could vote. Her great grandfather, her grandfather and uncle, her parents, and Lillian herself lived through times when the right to vote existed in theory but was denied in fact or pursued with great risk. Lillian remembers struggles and losses of the Civil Rights Movement, the march from Selma to Montgomery, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, after which she cast her first ballot. Her ascent is a metaphor in which the struggle is tangible, palpable (“my, but that hill is steep”). Her encounter with a young man whom she asks, “Are you going to vote? … You better” is one of many powerful moments. Shane W. Evans’s layered art skillfully distinguishes present from past and is full of its own rich symbolism. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center
- How do the illustrations of the current story differ from the illustrations of the past? Why do you think the illustrator chose these two different styles to represent present day actions and past memories?
- What are some examples of hope in the story? Show evidence from the book.
- How has the right to vote continued to be an uphill battle? How is this uphill battle conveyed in the illustrations and text of the book?