The War Within

Holly Springs, Mississippi, 1862: The Green family owns a general store in this small Southern town where they have lived for many years. But ever since the Union army occupied her beloved town, Hannah Green has been furious. Her sister, Joanna, has fallen in love with Captain Mazer of the Union — the same Union that has been fighting against her brothers in the Confederate army to destroy the Southern way of life. Now General Grant has issued General Order #11, which commands all Jews to evacuate the territory under his command. The Greens are forced to follow the Union army to Memphis. For the first time Hannah and her family face discrimination simply because of their religion. She begins to realize that not everyone believes the basic truths she has always accepted. While the battles rage around her, Hannah begins to fight another war — the war within — which could destroy everything she has ever believed. With the historical accuracy for which she is known, best-selling author Carol Matas turns her attention to an unexamined chapter of the Civil War and creates a thought-provoking and heart-racing masterpiece.

Strange Relations

A summer in paradise. That’s all Marne wants. That’s all she can think of when she asks her parents permission to spend the summer in Hawaii with Aunt Carole and her family.

But Marne quickly realizes her visit isn’t going to be just about learning to surf and morning runs along the beach, despite the cute surfer boy she keeps bumping into. For one thing, Aunt Carole isn’t even Aunt Carole anymore—she’s Aunt Chaya, married to a Chasidic rabbi and deeply rooted in her religious community. Nothing could be more foreign to Marne, and fitting into this new culture—and house full of kids—is a challenge. But as she settles into her newfound family’s daily routine, she begins to think about spirituality, identity, and finding a place in the world in a way she never has before.

This rich novel is a window into a different life and gets to the very heart of faith, identity, and family ties.

The Fighter

Fighting is a way of life for Moshe Wisniak. As a boy from a very poor neighborhood in Warsaw, he can’t run away when Polish kids attack the Jews, because his legs are weak. So he learns to use his fists, his head and other weapons to defend himself and his brothers. When the family moves to Paris in 1929, everyone finds work and life improves slowly. Moshe, now Maurice, is a leather worker and a young husband. At a Jewish sports club, he takes up boxing, and becomes an amateur flyweight. But the war comes to Paris, and by 1942, the French police round up foreign Jews and the Germans deport them by the hundreds every day. They send Maurice to the death camp at Auschwitz. In the camp, SS officers sense Maurice’s strength. They command him to box against a dying prisoner. Now Maurice is faced with an impossible moral dilemma: kill the prisoner or be killed by the SS for refusing to obey them. Translated from French by award-winning author Jean-Jacques Greif, The Fighter isn’t simply another book about the Holocaust. It is a book about a hero who discovers the death-defying power of his own humanity.

Take a closer look at The Fighter as examined in WOW Review.

Ten Old Men and a Mouse

The synagogue was once a busy, bustling place, but now only ten old men come to tend it and pray each day. Then one day, a little scritch-scratch betrays the first new member in years: a tiny mouse who has taken up residence among the holy books. Of course, a trap must be set, but who will do it? Al volunteers, but in the morning the mouse is still there, and is just a little more appealing than he was before. Day after day, the men become more engaged, until the mouse has a bed, pictures on the wall, and a little carpet, not to mention all the treats the men bring. Then comes the biggest surprise of all. He is a she, giving the ten old men reason to celebrate with peach schnapps — and to plan a trip to the country where they find the perfect place to release their numerous charges. Back at the synagogue, fall turns to winter. The ten old men miss their mice until a little scritch-scratch returns.

Love Every Leaf: The Life of Landscape Architect Cornelia Hahn Oberlander

Cornelia Hahn Oberlander, who has been a landscape architect for more than sixty years, considers her profession “the art of the possible.” The description also applies to the very way this remarkable 86-year-old has lived her life. Playing in her grandmother’s garden as a child, Cornelia absorbed the beauty and importance of the natural world and by the age of eleven had decided that she would become a landscape architect.Leaving her native Germany in the wake of Hitler’s persecution of the Jews, the teenaged Cornelia was transplanted in America, where she could pursue her dream in safety, although not without having to struggle to carve out a place for herself in the male-dominated world of her chosen profession.

This 96-page biography tells her remarkable life’s story, complete with photographs and plans for the imaginative playgrounds and the innovative museum and embassy grounds she has created around the world, and for green rooftops, her latest passion. Young readers will not only learn about the profession, but also will find inspiration in Cornelia Hahn Oberlander’s love for the natural world and the respect and concern she shows for our increasingly fragile environment.

Out Of Line: Growing Up Soviet

Although the Iron Curtain is gone, the memory of the high drama, tragedy, and comedy that was life in the Soviet Union remains. It meant endless lineups in the cold — lineups enlivened by poetry and paranoia. It meant family life lived in two small rooms, but a family life that was rich in love and laughter. It meant trying to escape all-seeing eyes, especially those of the old ladies in their babushkas who guarded every courtyard.

Tina Grimberg brings color and perception to a life we think of as gray, impersonal, and foreboding. She was born in Kiev and grew up feisty, bright, and funny in a tiny flat with her parents and her older sister. Her descriptions of life in that grand and beleaguered city are by turn hysterical and heartbreaking. When Tina turned fifteen, the government, desperate for foreign wheat, traded “undesireables” for food, and that meant that many Jewish families like Tina’s could leave. Until they could leave on the hair-raising journey that would eventually bring them to Indiana, she was publicly shamed and cut off, but she never lost her affectionate and clear-eyed view of her homeland. This brilliant collection of memories is an unforgettable look behind what was the Iron Curtain; at a way of life that was reality for millions of people in the twentieth century.

Thanks to My Mother

Susie Weksler was only eight in 1941 when Hitler’s forces invaded her Lithuanian city of Vilnius, a great center for Jewish learning and culture. Soon her family would face hunger and fear in the Jewish ghetto – but worse was to come. When the ghetto was liquidated, some Jews were selected for forced labor camps; the rest were killed. Susie would live – because of the courage and ingenuity of her mother. It was her mother who carried Susie, hidden in a backpack, to the group destined for the labor camps; who disguised her as an adult in makeup and turban to fool the camp guards; who fed her body and soul through gruesome conditions in three concentration camps and a winter “death march”; who showed her the power of the human spirit to endure.