Sunday, June 19, 2022

Just a Girl: A True Story of World War II

Levi, Lia. Just a Girl: A True Story of World War II
March 22nd 2022 by HarperCollins (first published 1994)
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central 

 In this memoir for elementary readers, we learn the story of Lia Levi, who was born in 1931. When Mussolini comes to power and starts to exert sanctions against Jewish citizens, her parents start to make plans to keep the family safe. Her father loses his job, Lia has to move to an school for Jewish children, and soon the bombs start to fall. The family, which includes Lia's younger sisters Gabriella and Vera, and a nanny, Maria, soon start moving around the country to stay safe. They go to a grandmother's on the seaside, while Vera stays with another grandmother in Rome, and eventually to Milan and Rome. When the moving becomes more difficult, Lia is enrolled in a Catholic school for her own safety, where she is safer, but occasionally sees bombs dropping.
While Lia's experiences are harrowing, they skirt the edge of the war's atrocities and make this a good choice for describing the treatment of Jews during World War II to the youngest of readers. The story is mainly concerned with the daily aspects of life during the war, and also illustrates the sort of circumstances that are currently ongoing in places like Afghanistan and Ukraine. There is an underlying theme of Lia learning to speak up for herself; she starts the book being very shy, but as her experiences test her strength and resolve, she learns to speak up when necessary.
Black and white illustrations accompany the text, and there are side bars addressing issues like from Lia's perspective as an older adult, recounting her experiences. The pictures are great for driving home the sorts of clothing that people wore, the buildings and landscape of Italy, and various other historical aspects.
There have not been too many books written about the experience of the Italians during World War II.
 Napoli's In a Flash has Italian sisters living in Japan, and her Stones in Water details the experiences of an Italian boy who is catured by the Nazis. There is also Hughes' Hero on a Bicycle (2013) explores the life of a boy who is fighting the Nazis in, and Marsden's Take Me With You (2010), which chronicles the life of a girl whose father is an American GI. Spradlin's Jack Montgomery: World War II: Gallantry at Anzio gives a good nonfiction look at the experiences of the military action in the region.


  1. I love reading true stories from this time (and many other periods of persecution throughout history, of course), both about those desperately trying to stay alive and the heroes who risked their lives to help them. Great for kids today to read about!

  2. I agree, there aren't many books out about WWII and Italian Jews. Sounds good!