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.