Levi, Lia

Just a Girl: A True Story of World War II

(2) 4-6 Translated by Sylvia Notini. Illustrated by Jess Mason. In a direct, first-person account (adapted from her adult book Una bambina e basta), Levi relates what happened to her and her family under the rule of Mussolini and during World War II. Brief chapters, short sentences, and a simple vocabulary give this the air of a child's voice, but the quick, deft storytelling is that of a gifted, experienced narrator. The story starts in Turin, but when restrictions are imposed on Jewish Italians, Lia's family moves first to Milan and then to Rome, where Papa finds work. When the Germans occupy Rome, Lia and her sisters are hidden at a Catholic boarding school, and Papa and Mama go into hiding. Lia's impressions of her different schools, new friendships, and the conditions war brings about ("One egg for three people: that's just one of the little tricks that war can play on you") speak to children's interests, and the author's conversational style has just the right tone to make readers feel the narrator is addressing them personally. The main narrative is occasionally interrupted by "dear reader" notes--explanations and reassurances to soften the suspense of a terrifying time. Mason's soft black-and-white illustrations make these switches clear and meaningful, as she moves from images of the youthful Lia to Lia as a grandmother, a testament of survival and Jewish cultural continuity.


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