Heavy Medal Finalist – The War I Finally Won
Long List Title: THE WAR I FINALLY WON
(Titles on our long list will be included in our online conversation and balloting, alongside the short list titles.)
As sequels go, The War I Finally Won stands alone quite nicely. There are brand new characters, intensified situations, and different concerns that make this not just a rehash of the first book (The War That Saved My Life, a 2016 Newbery honor). Instead, it offers young readers an understanding of the impact of World War II on regular citizens – whether British children or the daughter of Jewish scientists whose fate is uncertain for most of the story.
Although one should not compare a book with its predecessor, I couldn’t prevent myself from noticing that Ada regresses greatly from the ending of the previous title to the starting of this one. As if someone hit a “reset” button and her affection toward Susan and developing understanding of others and the world around her all have suddenly vanished and have to be rebuilt from ground up. I confess that this irks me greatly and it takes me out of the beginning of the story quite a bit. However, this probably won’t bother readers who did not read the first book. Aside from my annoyance (which cannot enter the official discussion,) do I believe that The War I Finally Won have enough distinguishing qualities to warrant serious Newbery consideration? I actually do.
Bradley is masterful in presenting vivid characters. Ada’s naiveté and her frustration about her own lack of knowledge tug at the readers’ heartstring and we all root for her. We laugh when she confesses that she is not “used to being envied. To my surprise, I didn’t like it at all.” We are vexed when she does not understand Ruth’s tough situation and treats her rudely. We are heartbroken when she remembers Jonathan and says, “Memories of Jonathan felt like dragons, like real, imaginary fierce creatures with wings.” We cheer her on and we watch her mature with pride.
The dark themes of war, death, and parental abuse are all presented with honesty and the author does not shy away from portraying the harsher realities but also maintains a gentleness that takes into consideration of the potential younger readers and their sensibilities.
The War I Finally Won received the most Heavy Medal reader nominations (8): on par with I Am No Good at Rhyming. How does it compare with other titles on our long list? How do we compare it to Beyond the Bright Sea, Refugee, Hello Universe, or Real Friends? In fact, against all others: which aspects are stronger and which aspects weaker?
Filed under: Book Discussion
About Roxanne Hsu Feldman
Roxanne Hsu Feldman is the Middle School (4th to 8th grade) Librarian at the Dalton School in New York City. She served on the 2002 and 2013 Newbery Committees. Roxanne was also a member of 2008-2009 Notable Books for Children, 2015 Best Fiction for Young Adults, and the 2017 Odyssey Award Committees. In 2016 Roxanne was one of the three judges for the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards. You can reach her at at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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