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Hana's Suitcase: A True Story

Hana's Suitcase: A True Story

4.9 13
by Karen Levine

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In March 2000, a suitcase arrived at a children's Holocaust education center in Tokyo, Japan. Hana Brady was written on the outside. Children who saw the suitcase on display were full of questions and the director decided to find the answers.


In March 2000, a suitcase arrived at a children's Holocaust education center in Tokyo, Japan. Hana Brady was written on the outside. Children who saw the suitcase on display were full of questions and the director decided to find the answers.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Levine expands on her radio documentary, produced for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, for this unique approach to learning about the Holocaust. The author alternates between two chronicles, the first set in contemporary Tokyo, where a dozen children between the ages of eight and 18 form a club at a center for Holocaust education run by Fumiko Ishioka, and the other in 1930s Czechoslovakia, where young Hana Brady is enjoying a happy childhood. Fumiko obtains for the club some children's artifacts from Auschwitz, including a suitcase marked with Hana's name. She then attempts to find out everything she can about Hana. Levine cross-cuts to the tragedies that befall Hana and her brother, but does not let readers anguish; she interposes exciting accounts of Fumiko's detective work and the sense of accomplishment it brings to the club. The engrossing account of Fumiko's research offsets the author's flat prose and occasionally questionable methodology (e.g., the construction of pivotal conversations between 13-year-old Hana and a friend who, like Hana, was killed upon arrival in Auschwitz). In an introduction, Levine promises that the suitcase contains "terrible sadness and great joy." That "joy"-apparently the impact of Fumiko's research, which culminates in her discovery of Hana's brother in Toronto-may strike some as disproportionate to the circumstances, but it also reflects the club members' commitment to "building peace." Their commitment lends credence to the optimistic message passed along to the audience-that an awareness of the past can impact the future. Ages 10-13. (Mar.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
At a Holocaust education center in Japan, the children wonder what happened to the owner of a small suitcase that is on display, so the director sets out to find the answer. This fine nonfiction is presented in the form of a mystery in chapters that alternate between the search for the details of Hana's life and the telling of that life story itself. The discerning reader will realize that Hana's identity was solved but cannot guess how until the closing chapters. The vocabulary and writing style are perfectly geared to the more or less fourth grade audience. Thick white paper, wide margins, and careful use of limited photos and documents make an attractive volume. A unique and appealing book. 2003, Albert Whitman,
— Beth Guldseth
School Library Journal
Gr 4-7-Based on a Canadian Broadcasting radio documentary produced by Levine, this book tells the story of Hana Brady, a girl killed at Auschwitz, and how her suitcase came to be a part of the Tokyo Holocaust Education Resource Center. A CD recording of the radio program is available and adds to the impact and power of the book. The story ends on a positive note by ultimately uniting Japanese schoolchildren fascinated by Hana's story with her brother George Brady, the only member of their immediate family to survive the war. The book alternates between past and present, one chapter telling the story of Hana's childhood in the Czechoslovakian resort town of Nove Mesto, and the next relating the experiences of Fumiko Ishioka, a teacher dedicated to educating the children of Japan about the horrors of the Holocaust. Black-and-white photographs of Hana and her family and Ms. Ishioka and her students accompany each chapter. As Hana's narrative draws her to Auschwitz and to the end of her life, Fumiko's story brings her closer to the solution of a puzzle that began with only a suitcase and a name. The narrative moves quickly, though the writing is often oversimplified. One can assume that direct quotes come from the memories of Hana's brother, George Brady, and Fumiko Ishioka, since they were the original narrators of the radio program, but there are no notes to that effect. Unfortunately, the stilted writing and lack of source notes mar an otherwise gripping story of a family's love and a teacher's dedication. An additional purchase for Holocaust collections.-Martha Link, Louisville Free Public Library, KY Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In 1998, the director of the newly endowed Tokyo Holocaust Education Resource Center's museum, whose mission is to educate Japanese students about the horrors of the Holocaust, set out to obtain artifacts for display. The Auschwitz Museum obliged by sending several items, including a small suitcase with the name Hana Brady and the German word for "orphan" painted on the front. The director, Fumiko Ishioka, supported by a group of students who had formed a club to promote understanding of the Holocaust, resolved to learn Hana Brady's story. Alternating chapters tell of the director's detective work, which takes her all the way to the site of Theresienstadt in the Czech Republic, and Hana's brief life in which Theresienstadt was the last stop before Auschwitz and the gas chamber. It is at the Jewish Museum in Prague that Fumiko learns that Hana had a brother who survived the war and emigrated to Toronto. Hana's brother, George, sends Fumiko the photos that enliven this work and then himself makes the trip to Tokyo to meet the children of the "Small Wings" club. Based on a radio documentary by the author aired by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Hana's story will captivate young readers as it unfolds. Levine successfully incorporates the two stories: a bleak story of a young girl's pointless suffering and death at the hands of fellow humans, the other a hopeful one of children, a world away in space and time from the events that deprived Hana of her future, who vow "never again." (Nonfiction. 10-14)
Children's Literature - Lois Rubin Gross
The new edition of a perennial favorite on Holocaust education lists has been updated for a twentieth anniversary printing. The book, a multi-award winner in Canada, now includes a foreword by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and additional photos, some from a documentary based on the book. According to inserts, the book is also now available in e-format and in a multi-media commemorative edition. The story has not been tampered with, and that remains the book's strength. Hana Brady was a Czech child during World War II who was first separated from her parents, then sent to Theresienstadt with her brother, only to again be "selected" and sent to her death at Auschwitz. In alternating chapters, a story is told of Fumiko Ishioka, director of a small Holocasut museum in Tokyo who is sent a (replica) of Hana's suitcase that went with her to the camps. Intrigued by the traveling case, Ms. Ishioka literally searches the world so she can relay Hana's face to the children who visit her museum. Her journey takes her from Tokyo to Prague and, through, roundabout means, connects her to Hana's living brother in Canada. As with many Holocaust memoirs, George's miraculous survival is riveting story in itself. Hana is a relatable historical figure who led a very ordinary pre-war life. Her death is not described graphically, so this is an appropriate introduction to the period for pre-Anne Frank readers. However, the star of the book is actually Ms. Ishioka. Her dogged pursuit of Hana's life story has all the elements of a great detective story, and her dedication to teaching the lessons of the Holocaust makes her an excellent role model. Reviewer: Lois Rubin Gross

Product Details

Whitman, Albert & Company
Publication date:
Holocaust Remembrance Series for Young Readers
Product dimensions:
7.78(w) x 9.32(h) x 0.60(d)
730L (what's this?)
Age Range:
10 - 13 Years

Meet the Author

Karen Levine has won many awards for her work in radio, including two presigious Peabody Awards (Canada) - one for the documentary Children of the Holocaust. This book is based on Karen's CBC radio documentary, also called Hana's Suitcase, which appeared on The Sunday Edition (Canada)and which won the gold medal at the New York International Radio Festival.

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Hana's Suitcase 4.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is about a young girl name, Hana Brady, who was born in May 16, 1931 in Nove Mesto, Czechoslovakia. Her family (dad, mom, her brother, George, and her) is Jewish. In March 1941 (spring), Hana¿s mother got arrested by Hitler¿s secret police (called Gestapo). That fall, all Jews had to wear a Star of David (a Jewish symbol) around when they¿re outside. A Nazi officer who is in charge of Nove Mesto says that Nove Mesto must be made Judenfrei (free of Jews). Hanna later stayed with her aunt and uncle because her parents got arrested, but Hanna and George could not do anything. She can¿t go to school, she can¿t play, and ECT because she is a Jew and same with her brother George. Hana got deported to Theresienstadt (Deportation Camp) in May 14, 1942. She was sent to Kinderheim L410 and her brother George was sent to L417. They are away from each other but they get to see each other for 2 hours a week. Hana and George found out that their grandma is at Theresienstadt too (close to where they are) and visited her as often as they could. Their grandma is ill, so after three months, their grandma was dead. The population of death increased day by day. On September 1944, George Brady got transport to Auschwitz and separated from Hana. Hana and the girls got transported to Auschwitz too¿

I would recommend this book because for my opinion, I like to learn about the Holocaust. After you read it, you learn to appreciate what you have and think about the people that have been sent to war or Auschwitz. This book teaches me bravery, loyalty, respect, compassion, and tolerance.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read this book, it is so sad but at the same time it is so happy. At the end I almost cried for Hana. I loved how Fumiko was so persistent in getting the info about Hana and George.She would not take 'No' as an answer.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
iluvbks More than 1 year ago
Great book, great lesson taught and very interesting on how the book came to be.
JennGrrl More than 1 year ago
Yes, this is Hana's story, but it's also the story of Hana's brother, of Hana's family, and of a wonderful woman in Japan trying to spread Hana's story and share it with Japan, as well as the children in Japan that are striving to bring the story of the Holocaust and of Hana with other children. Great book for children. It not only tells the story of an individual child and her brother from the Holocaust, but it also tells the story of what determination and dedication can accomplish. The children and museum director in Japan kept getting turned away at every attempt to find Hana's story, but they never gave up, and ultimately ended up getting what they were looking for, and so much more!
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you love learning about the past and the Holocaust, then this is the book for you! This book is about a girl named Hana Brady and her family. Hana and her family are a Jewish family. One day, after the Holocaust started her mother was taken away then, her dad. After her parents went to the concentration camps, her aunt and uncle took her in. Then one day her and her brother George were taken to a warehouse where they would be deported to children concentration camps. While that went on in 1939 in 2000 Fumica Ishioka was researching Hana because they had gotten some of her stuff from another museum. The most important item that Fumika received was a suitcase: Hana¿s suitcase. If you like that you¿ll surely find the book just fascinating. This book is Hana¿s Suitcase By: Karen Levine. It is a true story and for a hardcover book it is $15.95. This story takes place mainly in Japan, Canada, and Theresienstadt.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Hana¿s Suitcase By: Karen Levine How would you feel if you were a Jew in World War II? Well if you were in the same position as Hana Brady and her brother George you wouldn¿t be happy. Hana¿s Suitcase is a book to learn about all of the troubles that any Jew would go through. This book also tells about Fumiko Ishioka a lady who receives a girl¿s suitcase from the Auschwitz Museum with the word waisenkind the German word for orphan. How was the suitcase in modern day Japan connected to Hana Brady a Jewish girl in World War II? It turned out that the suitcase was Hanas. Now Fumiko was even more curious about Hana and her family. She asked museums everywhere to see if they had any information on Hana Brady or any relatives. She was always asked questions like how old was Hana and did she survive. What happened during Hanas life and was there any members of her family still alive? I¿ll let you find out. Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company Copy write: 2002 Price: $15.95 (hard cover)
Guest More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I happened to see this on the CBC National this past week. I was very much overwhelmed by the story. We need to be exposed to more stories like this so that we can truly appreciate how very fortunate we are.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Hana's Suitcase is a sad yet remarkable story. It brings together three worlds, Hana's world, over a century ago in Czechoslovakia, George, in Canada modern times, and Fumiko, a woman in Japan at a Holocaust museum. This story has a way of capturing your mind and making you want to read it over and over, crying every time.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Hana's Suitcase is a remarkable yet sad story that I think everyone should read. This story brings together a suitcase in Japan, marked Hana Brady, May 16, 1931, and waisenkind, the German word for orphan, a Jewish girl, more than half a century ago in Czechoslovakia, and a man living in Toronto. This sad story has a touch to it that makes you want to read it over and over, although crying every time.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A quite sad yet quite remarkable story of a Jewish girl in Czechoslovakia during the Holocaust. This story brings together the lost world of a young girl, and modern day in Japan and Canada. The reason these worlds come together is because of one suitcase sent to a museum in Japan and a determined woman who is set on finding out what ever happened to the young child, Hana Brady who owned the suitcase. I think this book is good for anyone who wants to know more about how life was turned upside-down during the second world war.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Hana's Suitcase is a remarkable yet sad story of a young jewish girl during the Holocaust. This story is very well told. I liked how it was Hana's life and then in Japan trying to figure out about her. I reccomend this story to children who ould like to know more about the Holocaust and how life was turned upside-down.