It’s almost Mother’s Day, a time when we celebrate our moms and all they mean to us. There are lots of great mothers in middle grade fiction, and lots of terrible ones as well. The mother in this week’s Rebecca Caudill Roundup selection has got to rank right up there with the worst fictional mothers of all time.
The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley was chosen as a Newbery Honor Book for 2015. It’s the story 10-year-old Ada, who lives in a squalid flat in World War II London with her little brother, Jamie, and terribly abusive mother who keeps Ada hidden from the world because of her clubfoot. When Jamie is about to be evacuated to the English countryside, their mother keeps Ada behind, as she ashamed of her disability and is sure that no one would accept her into their home–and she tells Ada as much. When evacuation day comes, Ada runs away and joins Jamie on the journey. The siblings are sent to live with Susan, a sad and lonely woman who reluctantly accepts them despite not having much experience with children. With Susan’s help, Ada begins a long journey of moving about on her own, interacting with other people, learning to read and write, and, most importantly, gaining a sense of self-worth and confidence. Ada’s struggle to overcome her heinously abusive past is heart-wrenching and inspiring all at once. Also, adults readers (and astute child ones, too) will be moved by Susan’s journey to a motherhood she never expected to experience. There is a happy ending that almost-was-not, and readers leave the book feeling that Jamie, Ada, and Susan have become the family each one deserves. A beautifully written and powerful and thought-provoking book.