A Master Plan for Rescue

A significant amount of my reading time is spent in children’s literature. With nine children in the house and all of them eager for a steady stream of books, it can keep me quite busy. However, this summer I took a moment to take a peek at the new adult fiction shelf. A Master Plan for Rescue (Janis Cooke Newman) caught my eye and found its way into my book bag.

It’s 1942 and we travel to New York and meet a young boy. His simple life with two loving parents begins unraveling with the unexpected death of his father and his mother’s overwhelming grief. In Berlin, a young man falls in love with a beautiful woman who is dying. His time with her is a long goodbye.

The lives of the young boy and the young man meet and find that their grief draws them together in a unique way. Both want to make a difference in the world for those that they have lost. Deep in their hearts, they both believe that in helping someone else, they will somehow bring those they have lost close to them again.

Set during World War II, A Master Plan for Rescue definitely weaves in historical aspects of this time period. However, the strong pull of this book is in the relationships. Beautiful, deep, bittersweet relationships. My heart broke for Jack when he lost his father. A boy who loved his father so deeply can not bring himself to accept that his father is gone. He imagines how his father escaped the accident. Jack decides that he will help find Nazis and then his father will come back home. His heart refuses to let his dad go.

Jakob, a Jewish young man, has fallen in love with a beautiful woman. And she is dying. Jakob knows that as a Jew he needs to leave Berlin. However, his beloved will not go as she is dying. Jakob continually fights for her to come with him. Ultimately she forces him to leave without her before it is too late.

Jakob’s and Jack’s lives meet and have before them a heroic deed…..the love for those they have lost drive them to do the impossible.

A Master Plan for Rescue has been one of the best adult fiction books I have read in some time. The stories of Jack and Jakob were gripping and I was compelled to finish the book as quickly as possible. Janis Cook Newman wove together such a beautiful story. I think she captured the thoughts and heart of a young boy like Jack so well.

While grief is one of the forces pushing the characters forward, there is more to the book than just sadness. There is joy and laughter. Friendships. Love. Beauty.

We can easily view history as a broad brush stroke across a canvas. A Master Plan for Rescue shows us that history is not this broad stroke of a brush. History is a young boy and a young man driven by love to become heroes.

Eric Liddell: Something Greater than Gold

Over the years we have read and been inspired by several biographies from YWAM Publishing. It started years ago when we read, George Mueller: The Guardian of Bristol’s Orphans. Most recently we had the opportunity to review Eric Liddell: Something Greater than Gold and the corresponding Unit Study Curriculum Guide: Eric Liddell.

You can learn more about YWAM Publishing on their About Us page.

My children were familiar with many of the inspiring missionaries in the the Christian Heroes Then and Now series.  Betty Greene, Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Gladys Alward, Adoniram Judson, David Livingstone are all familiar names. When I had the opportunity to select which person I wanted to share with my children I chose the selection Eric Liddell: Something Greater than Gold. None of my children were familiar with Mr. Liddell as a Olympic medalist or a missionary.

Something Greater than Gold takes us through Mr. Liddell’s life from his childhood with missionary parents in China, to boarding school, college, the Olympics, and traveling himself to China. My children were struck by the reality of life as a missionary during the early 1900’s.  Once Eric reached school age (5) he had to leave his parents behind and spend over ten years away from them. Thankfully he had an older brother at school with him. We had a great discussion on how challenging this must have been as a parent and a child.

The character of Eric Liddell is clearly shown from the beginning. Despite his shy, quiet manner he was willing to speak in front of any crowd to share Christ. No matter if an Olympic gold was on the line, he would not back down from his observance of Sunday as the Lord’s Day.  Even when showered with much admiration and fame, he left it all to serve those in need in China.

While this would have worked well as independent reading, I chose to read it aloud during our morning group time. I simple added it to my stack to grab each morning. Some days I read a bit at lunch. One thing I really appreciate about these books is that they appeal to a wide audience. From my seven year old and up we all are engaged and interested to see how the lives will unfold before us.

Unit Study Curriculum Guide: Eric Liddell presents several ideas and activities to take this missionary biography into all areas of learning. Memory verses, display suggestions, essay questions, hands on projects and more are put together for you in an easy to use resource. Perhaps you have a child whose learning style means that he needs to make a papier-mache model of China and mark where Eric lived.  Essay questions such as, “explain the ways that that various wars impact Eric Liddell’s life”, work perfectly for the older student. This essay question alone brings history and writing skills into play.

I chose to use the unit study guide informally. As we are reading through the text, I like to preview the chapter questions from the unit study guide. This helps me to remember some key points or issue we might want to discuss afterward. Generally our casual narrations after reading cover everything but sometimes important things get overlooked.

Answers to the chapter questions are provided in the back on the unit study guide. If you chose to use these Christian biographies for independent study, it is easy for you to check comprehension and understanding with the chapter questions.

With a large world map on the wall, it is not uncommon for my children to locate places we read about. The unit study guide provides a quick reference of key places in Eric’s life. This helps to make a little geography/map study easy to incorporate.

While we as a homeschool family enjoyed Eric Liddell: Something Greater than Gold, YWAM’s Christians biographies and unit study guides would work beautifully in a group setting: homeschool co-op, Bible study class, Sunday School classes, etc.

There are so many great people to learn about through YWAM Publishing. Take a peek at what other Crew members have been reading!

YWAM Publishing Review
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Black Dove, White Raven

Black Dove, White Raven is the latest young adult fiction novel by Elizabeth Wein. Once again Wein grips us with the story of two young people facing challenging circumstances. After a stunt flying accident, Emilia and Teo become more than friends; they become sister and brother. Teo’s mom dies in the plane accident and Rhoda (Emilia’s mom) takes him as her adopted son. In the 1930s such an act of love was not widely accepted as Emilia is white and Teo is black.

To fulfill the dream of Teo’s mother, Rhoda brings Emilia and Teo to Ethiopia, the home of Teo’s deceased father. Here there was hope that the color of her children’s skin would not be an issue for their family. Emilia and Teo both come to love the land of Ethiopia, a beautiful, peaceful country. Things quickly change when Italy threatens war.

The war becomes personal for Emilia and Teo as they are both unwillingly drawn into the conflict. What does this war mean for their lives in Ethiopia? Will their family be torn apart? What will Teo’s Ethiopian heritage mean for his future?

I must make a confession. I attempted to read Black Dove, White Raven several times. I would read a page or two and put it to the side. For some reason the story was not engaging me or capturing my interest. Then I told myself to trust the author. Wein had weaved a beautiful, bittersweet story in Code Name: Verity and Rose Under Fire. Their stories were complete so I needed to shift my mind to a new story.

As I picked up the book again, I found myself gently pulled into Emilia’s and Teo’s lives. This book leads you a bit slower with a gentle pull to the depths of Emilia and Teo. This slower paced pull flows beautifully with the the land of Ethiopia during this time period. Before you realize it, their story has gripped you. And not just their story but the Ethiopian people as well. In all my studies and readings in history, this war between Ethiopia and Italy in the 1930s had never been encountered. My view of Ethiopia has been challenged and broaden by Black Dove, White Raven.

I definitely recommend adding this to your To Be Read pile or as a good addition for history readings for your teen. All three of my teens read Black Dove, White Raven (16, 15, & 13). My two daughters were familiar with Wein’s writings and agree that this is another well done book. My son’s reading of Black Dove was his first encounter with Wein’s writings and he was left speechless when he was done. Thank you Elizabeth Wein for another amazing read.

Have your read Black Dove, White Raven? I’d love to hear your thoughts!