Review by Booklist Review
In 1937, at age 14, Stella Levi dreamed of leaving her island home to pursue her love of learning. Growing up, Stella rarely ventured beyond the walls of the Juderia, home to a thriving Jewish community on the island of Rhodes. But as her siblings left for the world outside, Stella began to yearn for more adventure and education than the island could provide. Seven years later, in 1944, Stella would leave the island, but under very different circumstances: German troops rounded up her entire Jewish community and transported them to Auschwitz. In her nineties, Stella met author Frank in 2015. Over the course of six years, she and the author built an unlikely friendship as Stella shared her most beloved and horrific memories, from her idyllic childhood with her grandmothers to her adolescent friendships and adventures on the island to her most traumatic experiences of deportation and surviving the war. Accompanied by illustrations from Maira Kalman, Frank writes Stella's harrowing journey with care, and the result is this beautifully crafted true story of friendship, love, survival, and redemption.
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Frank (The Mighty Franks) revisits the life of nonagenarian and Holocaust survivor Stella Levi in his incandescent latest. The two struck up a friendship after meeting in New York City in 2015, and, over six years, Frank writes that Levi became to him "a time traveler who would invite me to travel with her." Born in 1923, Levi grew up on the Grecian island of Rhodes, in an enclave of "Judeo-Spanish-speaking Sephardic Italian Jews," who, in 1944, were rounded up by German soldiers and sent to Auschwitz. Distilled through Frank's intelligent prose and enlivened with eye-catching illustrations from Kalman, Levi's recollections bring to vivid life the unique culture of the Juderia, its complicated colonial history, and her colorful, multilingual family as she describes how, under Italian Fascist rule in the 1920s and '30s, all traces of Judaism vanished from the public eye. One of few Rhodeslis to survive the horrors of Auschwitz, Levi fashioned a new life in America but would eventually return to Rhodes to find its once vibrant Jewish culture decimated by years of war. Even with its sobering revelations, Frank's narrative shines with an ebullience, thanks to the "unusually rich, textured, and evolving" life of his utterly enchanting muse. The result provides an essential, humanist look into a dark chapter of 20th-century history. (Sept.)
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Review by Library Journal Review
Stella Levi and author Frank (What Is Missing) collaborated on this book via a series of Saturday conversations that took place over six years. Levi grew up on Rhodes, a Greek island in the eastern Aegean that was taken over by Italian troops in 1912. The neighborhood where she lived--the Juderia--had been home to Jews from the 1600s until July 1944, when the Nazis deported 1,700 Jewish residents, murdering 1,200 at Auschwitz. Levi was liberated in 1945 and spent years trying to find her place in the world, before finally ending up in New York City, where she still lives. Frank's narration creates a sense of intimacy, where listeners can be part of the discussion and hear about Levi's childhood, deportation, life in the concentration camps, and beyond that. How does a person start again after barely escaping the horror of so much death? Levi's life as a survivor, wanderer, wife, and mother proves her toughness and determination. She's a woman who refuses to be defined by the events of her life and instead lives life as she sees fit. VERDICT Marvelous narration by the author and interludes of Stella Levi singing make this an excellent addition to public library collections.--Christa Van Herreweghe
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Review by Kirkus Book Review
At 99, a Holocaust survivor describes her harrowing experience. In 2015, Frank met Stella Levi when they attended a lecture on Nazi Fascism at NYU's Department of Italian Studies. Levi grew up in the Juderia (Jewish quarter) of the island of Rhodes among "Judeo-Spanish-speaking Sephardic Italian Jews." The day after the lecture, the director of the Centro Primo Levi called Frank to ask if he wanted to help Levi (no relation to Primo) with the English in her upcoming talk. He went to her Greenwich Village apartment shortly thereafter for their first meeting. The next week, he told her he wanted to write about her life. Thus began 100 Saturday conversations spanning six years, during which Levi described her upbringing and wartime experience. At first, she refused to discuss the camps to which she and 1,650 other Rhodeslis, wedged onto "three dilapidated cargo boats," were sent. In Frank's elegant rendering, Levi restricts herself to family stories--her father's successful coal and wood business, the sibling who was the first among her sisters to be educated at the Italian high school for girls--before discussing the Fascists who introduced racial laws, disinterred Jewish cemeteries, and "set in motion a series of events that would in time lead to the destruction of this same community, which had lived in relative peace in Rhodes for nearly half a millennium." The narrative, interspersed with Kalman's color paintings of scenes from Levi's life, is an evocative and heartbreaking work. Readers only intermittently get a sense of the connection between Levi and Frank, and based on the evidence presented here, it doesn't transcend far beyond that of reporter and subject. The story Levi tells, however, is gut-wrenching in its horrifying familiarity, and Frank presents it well--even if the concept of 100 Saturdays comes across as a storytelling gimmick. A brutal yet ultimately hopeful account from one of history's darkest episodes. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.