Ada has never been allowed to leave her apartment because her cruel mother is embarrassed by Ada's club foot. She uses threats against Ada's younger brother Jamie to keep her in line and when that doesn't work, she locks Ada into a small cupboard. As World War II begins many of the children in London are shipped out of town to homes in the country where they will be safe from the daily bombing. Jamie is scheduled to leave so Ada joins him and the two siblings arrive in a small town where they are unwillingly taken in by Susan Smith. Although Susan says she is not a nice person, Ada finds that she has more freedom than she ever dreamed existed as she learns to ride a pony and is not subjected to daily suffering.
A good friend talked about this book the year it was published and said it was one of her favorites for the year. Now that I've read it, I have to agree with her assessment. It is so wonderful to watch Ada bloom from someone who is beaten down into a girl with enough spunk to help catch spies and save her brother. Their mother is a nasty villain who will leave readers hating her and wondering how someone could care so little for her own child. As a small bonus - this might not be Bradley's intention, but I choose to believe that there is a same sex relationship quietly woven into the story. So many characters were saved and saved each other!