Just a Girl: A True Story of World War 2 by Lia Levi

Published on May 11, 2023

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Just a Girl:  A True Story of World War 2   by Lia Levi, illustrated by Jess Mason

Reviewed by Elizabeth DeVincenzo

In this memoir adapted for young readers, Lia Levi tells her story of growing up as a Jewish girl living in Italy in 1938 with war on the horizon.   Lia who is six years old at the time thinks it’s silly that Italy’s leader, Mussolini, doesn’t want Jewish children to go to Italian schools or go on vacation.  When her father loses his job, Lia, her mother, and two younger sisters have to move from city to city while her father looks for work.  Once the war breaks out, Lia’s parents send her and her sisters to a Catholic boarding school for safety. They change their names to hide their Jewish identity and pose as Christians while their parents go into hiding.  Eventually, Lia’s mother joins them, while her father remains in hiding.   Once the war is over, Lia and her family are reunited and they return home.  The war destroyed almost everything in Lia’s house: no electricity, no gas, and no running water.  Despite this, Lia is grateful to be safe and home with her family.    Lia states, “Who cares if my house is ugly and we only electricity for one hour a day… freedom has given my world back, and I can tell how wonderful it’s going to be- to go wherever I want.”  A photo album of Lia Levi and her family from 1938-1948 is included along with an afterward written by Lia in 2021.   This book won the Batchelder Award for 2023, an award for children’s books originally written in a language other than English and then translated for publication in the United States.  Lia’s outspoken voice and spunky character will engage young readers. Her conversational writing style will appeal to reluctant readers.  This book introduces the Holocaust to children while sparing the horrific details.   Highly recommended for children with an interest in 20th century history, especially World War 2 and the Holocaust.  Lia’s bravery is an inspiration to all who have encountered racism and intolerance.

Target audience:  Ages 8-12

2023 Batchelder Award Winner

Booklist 02/01/2022 -*Starred Review

Kirkus Reviews 02/15/2022 - *Starred Review


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