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Hana's Suitcase
The Quest to Solve a Holocaust Mystery
Karen Levine

Crown Books for Young Readers
January 5, 2016 / ISBN-13: 978-1101933497
Children / Nonfiction / History / Canada/Japan

Reviewed by Carmen Ferreiro


In the winter of 2000, a suitcase arrives from the museum at Auschwitz to a small Holocaust education center in Tokyo. Fumiko Isioka, the curator at the center, wants her young visitors to learn about the Holocaust, and believes seeing an object that belonged to one of the victims will help bring the event closer to them.

Written on white chalk on the suitcase there is a name: Hana Brady, a date, May 16, 1931, and the word "WaisenKind" that means "orphan" in German. Fumiko is determined to find out who was Hana and what happened to her so long ago when, together with more than 140,000 Jews, she arrived at the concentration camp in Auschwitz during the Nazi's attempt to kill them all.

At the same time that we learn about Fumiko's search through museums and archives in Europe for any news of this unknown girl, we learn Hana's story in alternate chapters.

"Hana had blond hair, blue eyes and a very pretty round face. She was a strong girl," and in 1938 she lived in a small village in Czechoslovakia. Hana had a loving family, a mother, a father and a brother and many friends at school. Then the Nazis came.

We know what happens next. Still the story, told in a simple style devoid of all sentimentality (kudos to Karen Levine), will bring tears to your eyes before, thanks to a determined and strong Japanese woman, it manages to end in a tone of hope.

I loved this story and recommend it highly.

Excellent book to teach grades 5 and up about such a disturbing period of European History. Hopefully the lessons learned through this story will help us not to do the same to those who profess another religion, or belong to another race or country, any time in the future.

Reviewed 2016