One of the first literary agents I queried in my search for representation rejected LIZZIE AND THE LOST BABY because she thought there were already too many children’s stories set during World War II and she would have difficulty selling another. She was wrong! Lizzie was published and so was another fabulous children's book set in World War II England: THE WAR THAT SAVED MY LIFE by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. If you haven’t read THE WAR THAT SAVED MY LIFE yet, you should — it’s a fabulous book and well deserving of its Newbery honor award. Aside from the fact that it’s a great story, the author has done a tremendous job in portraying wartime rural England.
The stories in both these books focus on the lives of young evacuees (Ada and Lizzie) uprooted from their homes and sent to live with strangers who don't really want them, but that’s where the similarity ends. The war is the backdrop to Lizzie’s story but isn't an integral part, whereas in Ada’s story the war is front and center with descriptions of rationing, making do, spies, air raid shelters and the tragic events of Dunkirk. Ada is a child of poverty with a brutal heartless neglectful mother — she's illiterate and doesn’t even know her birth date — whereas Lizzie comes from a close loving family and misses them desperately when she has to leave. Ada’s story shows her gradually blossoming in the care of her host whereas Lizzie’s shows her battling to find the courage to disobey hers. THE WAR THAT SAVED MY LIFE covers a much longer period of time than LIZZIE AND THE LOST BABY and we follow Ada’s emotional journey and feel her personal growth as she learns to take her place in society and trusts that she is indeed worthy of love. But Lizzie grows too, finding the strength to stick to her convictions in the face of opposition and prejudice towards the Gypsies, her new friends.
If my experience illustrates anything, it’s that writers should write the stories that won’t let them go, that tug at their hearts, that demand to be told, and not worry about what the market can support. A good story is a good story and someone will want it.
For background to LIZZIE AND THE LOST BABY, follow these links:
- Blog post: Writing Lizzie and the Lost Baby.
- Blog post: Writing Elijah.
- Web page: Information about Lizzie and The Lost Baby with links to photographs.