I have spent part of the last day in the English countryside during the early years of World War II with Ada Smith, her younger brother Jamie, and their unlikely caretaker, Miss Susan Smith. Though not related to the children, she accepts the evacuees and provides for their well-being. The two live in fear, having been mistreated, neglected, and malnourished by their biological mother. Ada, in fact, had never been allowed out of their third floor apartment, constantly told by her mother it was her fault she had a deformed foot. But Ada is a determined girl. Alone in their apartment, she teaches herself to walk - however painfully - in order to escape the prison imposed on her by her bullying mother.
And then she meets Susan Smith, the pony named Butter in Susan's field, a stable caretaker named Fred Grimes, and numerous other kind and compassionate folks whose generosity and concern slowly turn her mistrust into hope. With Susan, I discovered how terribly sheltered the children had been. Words they should know need explanations and modeling. Their assumptions about people and meanness must be wore down with reassurance, bedtime reading (The Swiss Family Robinson), baths, three meals a day, and attention.
I have been laughing, pondering, celebrating, and shaking my head as the pages of this book pass too quickly. May you feel the same way about it.