The War That Saved My Life

I am a weird book blogger, in that I actually hate writing reviews. I don't consider myself a reviewer at all. I am a sharer. When I like something, I share it. When I love something, I gush about it. It's so much easier to do this with picture books, just so you know. "Look at this book, isn't it pretty, I really liked it!"

So... I need to share this book. 

If I ran into you on the street, our exchange would go like this:

"Ohmygoshhaveyoureadthisbookyet?!It'so beautifulandawesomeandIloveitsomuch!!!!"

Yep. Really.

The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley.
Dial Books, 2015.

The War That Saved My Life was a Newbery honor book this year. It sounded interesting, so I put it on Big Sis's Amazon wishlist. My sister gave it to her for her birthday. She started reading it at school the other day, and told me that so far, it was excellent. 

Tuesday nights, I volunteer in the office at the girls' dance studio. I forgot to bring a book - it can be rather slow - so Big Sis lent me her book.

After we got home, I stayed up until 2 AM, finishing it.

The book begins in London, 1939. Ada Smith (who doesn't know her age) looks after her brother, Jamie, and cooks for her abusive monster of a mother. Ada was born with a clubfoot, but she doesn't know that's what it's called. She believes what her mother tells her: her foot is an abomination, disgusting, and makes her worthless. Mam is physically abusive, as well as mentally, and punishes Ada with blows to the head and by locking her in a cupboard overnight. When Jamie is at school and while her mother is at work, Ada teaches herself to walk, despite the blood and pain. One day, Jamie comes home and tells his mother and sister that the teachers and children are being evacuated. War is coming; London will be bombed. Mam says she may send Jamie away, but not Ada. Who would take her? Ada has other plans. She confesses to Jamie that she has learned to walk, and the morning of the evacuation, she steals a pair of Mam's shoes and together, they sneak to the train station.

Ada finds out that the neighbors thought she was "simple." Her Mam had told them as much. She also observes how dirty and ragged she and Jamie are, compared to the other children. When they arrive in Kent, people come to pick through the evacuees, choosing who to take into their homes. No one wants Ada and Jamie. The woman in charge takes them to a house. They hear her arguing with the woman of the house, Susan Smith (no relation). She doesn't want children. She doesn't think she can take care of anyone. The children are left there anyway. She cleans them up, and takes them to the doctor, who examines Ada's foot. He explains her foot could have been fixed by operation as a baby. Now, it would take a bigger operation, and it would never be truly fixed, but could be better. They just need her Mam's permission to operate. For now, Ada is given her first pair of crutches.

Susan Smith has her own pain. Her "best friend," Becky, has died, leaving her the house. It becomes fairly clear, if never explicitly stated, that Becky was more than a friend. Susan is dealing with her own feelings of rejection from her family, as well as the depression from her loss. She has Becky's pony, Butter, and Ada teaches herself how to ride him.

The book is written in the first person. Ada's voice is a strong one. Early on, she seems so tough, but as the kindnesses pile up, her resolve begins to break. She has panic attacks, fighting against hope. Susan isn't "real." She is only temporary, and she is sure that one day, she will be forced to return to Mam.

Of course, the war is there, too. An airfield is built behind the house, and Jamie is fascinated by the planes. On her pony rides, Ada always keeps an eye out for German spies. 

In many ways, the story does feel familiar: abused children are sent to live with a depressed stranger, and heartwarming things happen. Yet, Ada is such a beautifully realized character, and her emotions felt so true, I found myself immersed in the story. I enjoyed other characters, too, villagers we meet here and there. The book is not as heavy and depressing as you would think. There is actual fun to be had, believe it or not. It's downright charming at times.

Who says kids' books are just for kids? 

So now I'm just waiting for my kid to finish the book. 

As of tonight, Big Sis is about halfway through it. She's slooooowww!
Mommy wants to talk about it nooooooow!

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Turning 11

It's been an eventful first month of school! Big Sis turned eleven on September 6. She decided last year that her 10th birthday party would be her last, at least for a while. This year, she wanted three things: to have a nice dinner with our Wichita family, visit my mom in Oklahoma, and to go to an amusement park. We wound up celebrating for two whole weeks!

It began two days before her actual birthday, with dinner at a favorite pizza place, then cake and presents at home.

She requested a rosemary-lavender cake, no icing. I found a recipe online that fit the bill perfectly. I made the pinwheels to dress it up a bit.

Harry Potter reigned supreme, but she got also received a great stack of books, a ton of earrings, a Peanuts DVD collection, and the Gilmore Girls soundtrack!

On Labor Day, we met my sister and nieces at the zoo. Both my camera battery and phone died an hour into the trip, so I missed out on photographing the month-old baby gorilla (sooooo cute!) and the new elephant habitat.

She returned to school after the long weekend on her actual birthday. (So unfair!) I made homemade vanilla cupcakes and brought them to her class.

Here is a very Harry outfit. She used birthday money to order the t-shirt, the Hot Topic Gryffindor cardigan came courtesy of her uncles, and the Gryffindor knapsack was from my sister.

Paying tribute to her mother when she was in the fifth grade, Big Sis finally read my all-time favorite book. Despite the fact we own no fewer than three copies, she still insisted on checking out a copy from school. The very copy, in fact, that I first read back in fifth grade. (She started A Wind in the Door, but has been distracted by another amazing book that I will tell you about tomorrow.)

That weekend, after Saturday morning dance classes were over, we drove down to Oklahoma to visit my mother and family. Ma made some gorgeous roasted vegetables, a lemon birthday cake for Big Sis, and the next day, homemade hummus. We didn't do much besides chill at their house, but on the way home, we did veer off onto Route 66 to visit Pops and the Arcadia Round Barn. (Ma and my brother met us there.)

Our sodas of choice. Nothing disgusting this time! The pumpkin pie soda was delicious, and the Hillary Hooch was grape-y.

We listened to more A Series of Unfortunate Events on audio, but the girls also entertained themselves with photos.

Big Sis used my Canon Rebel to shoot pictures from the backseat.

Little Sis loves the new PicMonkey app. She really, really loves it, in fact.

Another week went by, and we finished out the birthday celebration at the Kansas State Fair.

I can't believe my oldest baby is eleven, and in her last year of grade school. She says she wants to stop at eleven. Middle school and the teenage years don't sound like much fun. This is a song we used to listen to when she was tiny. Eleven seemed so far away back then.

Between PTO stuff, a weekly field trip, birthdays and traveling, I just haven't been in the mood for blogging. My photo skills make me sad, and I haven't felt like I have much to offer here. But the weather has cooled, and I have a stack of books to check out at the library, just in time for my annual October fall and Halloween fun fest, so I hope to be back to normal soon!

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Fuddles and Puddles

Seriously. Mabel would not leave me alone. 

Happy Fall to all my fellow Northern Hemisphere-ans! It's taken a bit for our Kansas weather to catch up, but we are in the midst of some lovely fall-like temperatures. I apologize for my long absence. (Over a month - gulp!) I hope to share more tomorrow, but for now, I have a book!

Fuddles and Puddles by Frans Vischer.
Aladdin (an imprint of Simon & Schuster), 2016.

Fuddles and Puddles is the third book in the Fuddles the Cat series of picture books by artist and animator Frans Vischer. I received a review copy from the publisher, and it is pretty adorable.

(My photos are not so adorable. This is one of the reasons I haven't been blogging lately. My apologies. Please bear with me.)

Fuddles is being his fat, pampered self, dreaming a "delicious dream," when he startles awake. Something is amiss.

He heads to his food bowl. There is a fresh puddle by the bowl...

The family names the new puppy Puddles. Fuddles is not impressed.

Everywhere Fuddles went...

Side note: we had to put up baby gates to block our dog Peanut from getting to the litter boxes, for grosser reasons than depicted here.

Fuddles's only respite from the dog is outdoors.

Finally, things come to a head, and poor Puddles learns to stay away from Fuddles.

Then one day, when Fuddles reaches up a tree to grab an avocado off a branch...

Lucky for Fuddles, Puddles hears his cries and comes a-running. You can guess how the story ends.

It's a simple story, and not exactly surprising, but Fuddles's girth and lazy attitude is always amusing. Any cat lover will find him charming. 

We definitely see a bit of our fat, bratty Mabel in him. 

As noted above, the review copy came from the publisher, but all opinions are my own.

Fuddles and Puddles is available as of today! 

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