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Thursday, August 9

Hot Hot Hot! (Cure)

Auschwitz Lullaby (Mario Escobar)
On an otherwise ordinary morning in 1943, Helene Hannemann is preparing her five children for the day when the German police arrive at her home. Helene’s worst fears come true when the police, under strict orders from the SS, demand that her children and husband, all of Romani heritage, be taken into custody. Though Helene is German and safe from the forces invading her home, she refuses to leave her family—sealing her fate in a way she never could have imagined.  After a terrifying trek across the continent, Helene and her family arrive at Auschwitz and are thrown into the chaos of the camp. Her husband, Johann, is separated from them, but Helene remains fiercely protective of her children and those around her. When the powers-that-be discover that Helene is not only a German but also a trained nurse, she is forced into service at the camp hospital, which is overseen by the notorious Dr. Mengele himself.  Helene is under no illusions in terms of Dr. Mengele’s intentions, but she agrees to cooperate when he asks her to organize a day care and school for the Romani children in the camp. Though physically and emotionally brutalized by the conditions at Auschwitz, Helene musters the strength to protect the children in her care at any cost. Through sheer force of will, Helene provides a haven for the children of Auschwitz—an act of kindness and selflessness so great that it illuminates the darkest night of human history.  Based on a true story, Mario Escobar’s Auschwitz Lullaby demonstrates the power of sacrifice and the strength of human dignity—even when all hope seems lost.

My first real taste of Mengele was reading Jane Yolen's 'Mapping the Bones.'  I'd heard of him, but not in depth, until that point.  This book gives a different point of view on the same story.  It begins with a mom who chooses to go with her family to Auschwitz (she could be spared, since she is German), and finds herself heading up a nursery school in the camp.  It's based on a true story and focuses on the Gypsies that were persecuted during the war (which we don't typically hear about).  The author definitely did a good job of researching and recreating!  The whole story is full of sensory language and details that make you feel as though you're right there beside her...feeling her fear that her own set of twins will be experimented upon next.  I'm fascinated by WW2 stories, and have read most of the general storylines, but this was a new one for me.  I was a little confused about why it's listed as a Christian book, because it definitely isn't preachy and there isn't even much mention of God....but maybe it's more about character and resilience.  Either way, fans of historical fiction will want to pick this one up!

Through the Autumn Air (Kelly Irvin)
The mother of ten and a widow of seven years, Mary Katherine is a bundle of energy, always willing to step in and help her friends around her Amish community. Now that her last child is married, she pours her abundant creative spirit into writing stories, even as she speaks aloud to her late husband every day. Her dream is to open a bookstore with an English friend, but the church elders want this wayward widow to work in an Amish-owned store instead. When her old school friend, Ezekiel, offers her a position as a cook in the restaurant he opened after his wife died, she knows she should accept. But does she really want to spend her time working over a hot stove?   When a mysterious English stranger breaks into her house to make himself a sandwich one autumn night, Mary Katherine doesn’t call the sheriff. She turns to Ezekiel. They both see that Burke is need of more than a meal, and Ezekiel offers him the job at the restaurant. As they set out to care for their new friend, Mary Katherine and Ezekiel find themselves often working together. Mary Katherine is drawn to Ezekiel, but she remembers the terrible risk of giving her heart to someone. Can two people in the autumns of their lives and so well-versed in the pain of loss put the past behind them and trust in the hope that comes with each new season?

I've read the first two books in this series, and enjoyed catching up with the same cast of characters again in this third installment. Each of the seasons that the book centers around also seems to be related to the book's theme. In this case, we are in the autumn of our characters' lives...catching them at retirement age. (It should be noted that you do NOT have to read all of the books....they work just fine as a stand-alone.) There are many unique elements in here that I haven't seen in other Amish stories, including criminal acts, the intertwinedness of the Amish & Englisch (more than usual), and the complexity of growing old within the Amish community. This is a story of loss and grief, of overcoming, and of second chances.

Boundaries for Your Soul (Alison Cook)
You can turn your shame to joy, your anger to advocacy, and your inner critic into your biggest champion. Do your emotions control you or do you control your emotions? Many people let guilt, anger, or self-criticism dominate their lives and negatively affect their relationships. Boundaries for Your Soul shows you how to calm the chaos within. This groundbreaking approach will help you:  know what to do when you feel overwhelmed, understand your guilt, anxiety, sadness, and fear, welcome God into the troubling parts of your soul, and move from doubt and conflict to confidence and peace.  Boundaries for Your Soul includes relatable anecdotes, helpful exercises, an engaging quiz, and opportunities for personal reflection. Gathering the wisdom from the authors' twenty-five years of combined advanced education, biblical studies, and clinical practice, this book will set you on a journey to become the loving, authentic, joyful person you were created to be.

It almost seems counterintuitive to embrace the ugly parts of yourself, but that's exactly what the authors recommend for healing.  It focuses on emotions and how to constructively cope with them, rather than shoving them deep inside or allowing them to rule your life.  They offer up a five-step approach to walking through those depths of your soul, wading through the mess, and coming out the other side.  These five steps include focusing on and owning the emotion, coming to acceptance with it, inviting God to work with you on coping with and overcoming said emotion, unloading that emotion onto either God or others around you, and finally overcoming it and growing into a better person from having experienced it.  Written as engagingly as one can write a non-fiction book, this is a good self-help book for those who are struggling to accept themselves in their entirety.

I Can Only Imagine for Little Ones (Bart Millard)
I Can Only Imagine asks questions a child might ask and invites families to wonder together: What is heaven like? What does God do? What would it be like to spend a day with Jesus? Children will see that although experiencing the glory of heaven may be far off, we can enjoy a friendship with Jesus every day - right here on earth. Whimsical, playful illustrations and thought-provoking questions make this a book that families will cherish.  Fun and vibrant illustrations offer a vivid visual and will help your children see that God can be found everywhere, every day.  I think about heaven as I look up at the sky and watch the fluffy clouds roll by. The more I imagine, the more I wish I knew.  I wonder, would God like pancakes with extra syrup too?  And if God and I spent the day together, what exactly would we do?  The Christian worship song “I Can Only Imagine” touched countless lives with its glorious representation of being in the presence of God, and this beautifully illustrated picture book invites you and your children to imagine those same wonders. Share the joy of a personal relationship with the Lord with your family today through the creative, faith-filled book I Can Only Imagine.

This beautiful book is perfect for young readers to flip through and read, either together with a parent or on their own (depending on age).  The text is simple, but thought-provoking.  The illustrations are gorgeous and very colorful.  There is a lot of diversity shown on the pages, and the scenes are ones that will appeal to most children, featuring things such as playing at the lake in summertime or enjoying an ice cream cone.  Drawn from the lyrics of the MercyMe song, this book brings it down to a child's level and reminds them that God is always with them.

Little Book of Thanks (Thomas Nelson)
It happens every autumn. As soon as the leaves begin to turn bright, beautiful colors, the year sprints ahead on fast-forward! Take a few moments out of the hustle and bustle of the season to sink into a cozy chair with your little one and thank God for everything He’s given us with Precious Moments® Little Book of Thanks.  In the sweet, enduring art style of Precious Moments, this timeless book will help your children recognize all the wonderful things God has given them! Read along, and you will remember to enjoy the simple things, like singing silly songs, jumping in a pile of leaves, and watching the seasons change. The short, rhyming verses in this classic Precious Moments book don’t take much time to read at all, and they will create memories that last forever.  Precious Moments Little Book of Thanks offers you the chance to be thankful for all that you have and for the ones with whom you get to share every precious moment.

This is a nice board book that is the perfect size for little hands!  With short poems that are good for reading aloud together, or for beginning readers to try on their own, these beautifully-illustrated pages will bring to mind all the best that autumn has to offer.  Some of our favorite topics included family, the weather, music and playtime, the moon, and (my favorite) jumping in leaves!  There are related scriptures tucked into the pages, and the theme, of course, is Precious Moments.  I'm not sure who liked the book mother-in-law (who collects PM figurines) or her grandkids!
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