I don't love this, but I think it works for the story and the intended audience. However, I think boys might be turned off because of the girl on the cover and this is a book that boys would thoroughly enjoy.
Why I Wanted to Read This:
When this came up as an egalley on Edelweiss I wasn't interested. Then I started seeing review pop up on Good Reads. One of those reviews raved about the audio version so I checked that out from my local library.
Here's the synopsis from GoodReads:
Nine-year-old Ada has never left her one-room apartment. Her mother is too humiliated by Ada’s twisted foot to let her outside. So when her little brother Jamie is shipped out of London to escape the war, Ada doesn’t waste a minute—she sneaks out to join him.
So begins a new adventure of Ada, and for Susan Smith, the woman who is forced to take the two kids in. As Ada teaches herself to ride a pony, learns to read, and watches for German spies, she begins to trust Susan—and Susan begins to love Ada and Jamie. But in the end, will their bond be enough to hold them together through wartime? Or will Ada and her brother fall back into the cruel hands of their mother?
This masterful work of historical fiction is equal parts adventure and a moving tale of family and identity—a classic in the making.
First off, I adored the narrator for the audiobook. She was amazing. Her voice got me interested in the story right away and she made Ada come alive for me.
I loved Ada. There were times when I wanted to shake her and make her see the good in front of her, but I think she was way more true to life than a typical middle grade character because she couldn't acknowledge the good. And the conflicting things she felt, which she didn't have the right words to name, weren't overcome with a tidy bow. She would take two steps forward and fours steps backward. She had lived 10 years of her life with severe neglect and abuse, of course it would be hard to trust another person. And when her position as Jamie's main care giver is threatened, of course she would wonder if she had a place anymore. Thankfully she had Butter, a pony she could connect with and take good care of. She was able to replace Jamie with Butter, which gave her purpose.
Susan was also a great character. This was a woman who never felt accepted by the village, and who had recently suffered her won loss that she was having a hard time getting over. She needed these kids as much as they needed her. And she never sugar coated anything. The fact that she took them in and did for them the basic, decent things that they needed having done for them, while their own mother never did those basic things was just heart breaking. This was something Ada grappled with as well.
When I was a kindergarten teacher I would see many kids who had little background knowledge and didn't know words to many simple things or ideas. But being in school helps them build that knowledge. When Ada and Jamie come to Susan the don't have words for some of the most basic things. Jamie is a little better off than Ada, having been outside in his life, but Ada is building from the ground up. The author doesn't shy away from this and I am glad it's put in there because for them to suddenly be worldly would have been hard to swallow. They had so much to learn.
I love the tiny subplot of Stephen and the Colonel. It was so good to see what having a purpose in life did for him as well.
All along you knew that this wonderful life the children have been developing wouldn't last, but towards the end I couldn't help but silently plead "Stay strong Ada," over and over. While the ending is not all sunshine and roses, it does give Ada and Jamie hope.
To Sum Up: Just adored this book. I will booktalk the heck out of it for my library and hand it to anyone needing to read a historical fiction book for their genre wheels.