This book, published in 2015, is incredibly well-written historical fiction that many of my students who read at a 4th or 5th grade level considered one of their favorite stories ever! Set in WWII London, Ava, an eleven-year-old girl born with a club foot and her younger brother, Jaime, are in crisis. Their mother, a broken woman with a cruel streak, intends to save Jaime from the dangers of war by sending him north, leaving Ava, to whom she is physically and emotionally abusive, and herself behind. But Ava is determined, despite her disability, to accompany him. Once up north, the children are provided for by Susan, a woman who is standoffish, due to her own struggles. Ada, who feels undeserving of love, finds comfort in a kinship with Butter, a horse. This story of strife and triumph is filled with depth through its well-crafted characters and highly dramatic events. It is a not-to-be-missed slice of historical fiction!
Written by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, AR level 4.1, Newbery Honor Award.
Not often is the sequel to a book equal to it’s predecessor, but this one is pretty close. In it, Ava’s foot surgery transforms her physically, but emotionally she still struggles to define her place in her surrogate family and reconcile her identity. With the war still raging, Susan, Jaime and Ava are forced to move to a small guest house with Lady Thorton, Maggie, her daughter, and Ruth, a bright Jewish girl from Germany. In these tight quarters, tempers flare, fears are voiced and a tragedy affects them all. By book’s end, relationships are transformed, family is redefined and Ava finally wins her war within.
This book does contain a death from war. The AR level is 3.7, but the material is mature. Don’t let the lower level dissuade 5th or 6th grade readers from picking up this novel!
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