cover image One Hundred Saturdays: In Search of a Lost World

One Hundred Saturdays: In Search of a Lost World

Michael Frank, illus. by Maira Kalman. Avid Reader, $28 (240p) ISBN 978-1-982167-22-6

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.)