Hana’s Suitcase by Karen Levine

Hana's9780807531471_p0_v1_s260x420Hana’s Suitcase

Karen Levine, Author

Albert Whitman & Company, Biography, 2003

Suitable for Ages: 10-14 (Grade 5 and up)

Themes: Hana Brady, Jewish Children, Holocaust, Persecution, Czech Republic, Tokyo Holocaust Education Resource Center, Promoting Peace

Synopsis (Book Jacket)This is a true account of two brave children caught in the Holocaust and a young Japanese woman’s determination to tell their story. In March 2000, a suitcase arrived at a children’s Holocaust education center in Tokyo, Japan.  On the outside, in white paint were these words”  Hana Brady, May 16, 1931, and Waisenkind–the German word for orphan.  Children who saw the suitcase on display were full of questions.  Who was Hana Brady?  What happened to her?  They wanted Fumiko Ishioka, the center’s curator, to find the answers.  In a suspenseful journey, Fumiko searches for clues across Europe and North America.  The mystery of the suitcase takes her back through seventy years, to a young Hana and her family, whose happy life in a small Czech town was turned upside down by the invasion of the Nazis.

What I like this book:  Kudos to Karen Levine who performed the original Canadian radio broadcast about Hana, George and the children of Tokyo, which resulted in this book.  This was a tragic story about a Jewish girl killed in Auschwitz. It was also a heartwarming story about the determination of a woman, Fumiko Ishioka, the director of the Tokyo Holocaust Education Center, who wanted to teach the children of Japan about the Holocaust and the importance of building peace.  Since Japan was an ally of Nazi Germany during World War II, the children of Japan knew little about the atrocities that occurred.  Once the suitcase arrived with Hana Brady’s name and birth date, the children asked questions.  Fumiko embarked upon a journey that linked three continents together.  She found Hana’s brother in Canada and invited him to visit with the children of Tokyo, and see Hana’s long-lost suitcase.  He told the students about Hana and their life before the Holocaust and about life in prison camps .  Although difficult for George Brady, he discovered that in the end he was honoring Hana’s wish to become a teacher.  In her death, she was teaching millions of children worldwide about what happened to one-and-a-half million Jewish children.  The exhibit traveled all over Japan.

Resources:  This book is a great teaching tool for grades 5 to 8.  There is back matter in the book.  A 90-minute DVD about Hana’s Suitcase can be found in libraries.  It chronicles the events from Fumiko receiving the suitcase, her research, the Japanese children’s involvement, to George’s visit to Tokyo and his interaction with the students.  I highly recommend this book for classrooms and homeschoolers.  You may want to check out the Brady Family Website which if full of fascinating information and Karen Levine’s original radio interview.

About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

20 thoughts on “Hana’s Suitcase by Karen Levine

    • It isn’t a tough read because it brings answers and closure for Hana’s brother. The search by the teacher and her students to learn about Hana is remarkable. The Book Thief is on my list. And, now a movie.

    • And, I’m so drawn in by each one. I read everything I find because each is so unique. This story is very touching because of the relationship between the children of Japan and Hana’s brother George. Just discovered that there is a theatrical production of the story.

    • It is a wonderful story about a journey and relationship between the children of Japan and Hana’s brother, George. I should get my copy of the Book Thief soon. I agree, it is good to see things from different perspectivites — and there are so many out there.

    • Ruth, it is a very compelling read. And, it’s really interesting to watch the DVD as it captures the journey to find out about Hana, culminating with Hana’s brother George flying to Japan.

    • Erik this was such a good book. Great for a class to study. I loved watching the DVD because it chronicled the journey. Yes, I have read Lois Lowry’s “Number the Stars.” It was excellent. It’s on my shelf.

    • Yes, this story is really a treasure. It was multi-layered and I enjoyed the fascinating journey of the Japanese teacher and her students as they tried to learn about Hana. Hadn’t thought about Japan and Germany being allies — the reason to teach her students what happened.

    • I thought about you when I was reading and writing this review! It is one you would like. There is a DVD in the library that chronicles the story and you get to see George and his interaction with the Japanese children.

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