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Our March book selection for girls in 4th and 5th grades is the historical fiction book..
The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Next week we’ll send everyone who has signed up for Book Club a Meeting Guide with Discussion Questions.
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About the Book & Author
Nine-year old Ada has never left the one-room apartment she shares with her mother and brother Jamie. Her mother can’t stand the humiliation of the neighbors seeing her daughter’s malformed, twisted foot.
As the bombs of World War II draw closer to the city of London, all children are told to evacuate to the countryside. Though her mother forbids it, Ada decides that she must sneak away with Jamie. She summons all the courage and strength she has, and she ventures farther than she ever thought possible. It’s with this act of courage that Ada begins a whole new life with her brother and their reluctant guardian Susan. Though this new life offers friendship, affection, and happiness, it demands a new kind of courage. It demands the Ada, Jamie, and Susan stand up for their new family, and hold tight to each other. If they don’t, they risk losing it all.
Kimberly Brubaker Bradley was born in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. She attended Smith College, where she studied Children’s Literature with Patricia MacLachlan and Jane Yolen. Her first book, Ruthie’s Gift, was published in 1999. She has since published several more novels, including The President’s Daughter in 2004 and Jefferson’s Sons in 2011. Learn more on her website kimberlybrubakerbradley.com.
The War that Saved My Life, published in 2015, was a 2016 Newbery Honor book. It also won the 2016 Schneider Family Book Award and was a Wall Street Journal Best Children’s Book of 2015. Its sequel The War I Finally Won will be released in October of 2017.
The Girls Leadership Connection
The main character Ada faces great challenges, primarily her mother’s neglect and cruelty. To overcome her past, Ada must push herself out of her comfort zone, call upon her courage and strength, and take great risks. Most importantly, she must speak up for herself, and tell people around her what she needs.
Throughout this story, Susan identifies and nurtures Ada’s abilities. She encourages Ada’s interests, like riding horses, and offers unconditional love and support. Susan refuses to stand by while Ada is trapped in an abusive situation.
When we see a person or group being mistreated or oppressed because of their abilities, gender identification, religion, ethnicity, or sexual preferences, we have a choice. When we make the choice to support that person or group, we are choosing being an ally over being a bystander.
Have you ever had to choose between being an ally and a bystander? What does being an ally mean to you?
Dr. Beverly Tatum, former president of Spellman College and author of the book Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? describes racism as a “moving walkway” that our culture is all on, whether we realize it or not. She wrote, “I sometimes visualize the ongoing cycle of racism as a moving walkway at the airport. Active racist behavior is equivalent to walking fast on the conveyor belt. The person engaged in active racist behavior has identified with the ideology of White supremacy and is moving with it. Passive racist behavior is equivalent to standing still on the walkway. No overt effort is being made, but the conveyor belt moves the bystanders along to the same destination as those who are actively walking. Some of the bystanders may feel the motion of the conveyor belt, see the active racists ahead of them, and choose to turn around, unwilling to go in the same destination as the White supremacists. But unless they are walking actively in the opposite direction at a speed faster than the conveyor belt—unless they are actively antiracist—they will find themselves carried along with the others.”
Dr. Tatum’s moving walkway metaphor for racism applies to other types of systemic prejudices. Opting out of prejudice isn’t sufficient to create change. For that, we have to commit ourselves to being anti-injustice. It takes a lot of effort, and it isn’t easy to do alone. Fortunately, there are probably many people around you who would also like to take action against injustice. Your book club might even be a good place to start.
Fighting for the equality of a marginalized group of which you are not a part is often called being an ally. Check out this helpful list of “10 Ways to Be an Ally & a Friend” on the GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) website.
Also, watch Franchesca Ramsey’s short YouTube video about how to be an ally. (Check out the video’s information section for other resources.) Ms. Ramsey is an activist and TV personality who makes informative and entertaining videos about politics and race.