I read this to my Grade 3/4 class - and then the author, Karen Levine, came to our school. They had lots of questions - I'm glad I helped open their eyes to how fortunate they are to be where they are.
I was in tears many times while reading this book. As others have already said, it is the true story of Hana and George Brady, and their experience as Czech Jews during the Holocaust. It is also the story of Fumiko Ishioka, the director of the Holocaust Education Resource Centre in downtown Tokyo, Japan; and her determination to find out who Hana Brady was, and the story behind Hana's battered brown suitcase, which was sent to Fumiko from Auschwitz after she contacted Holocaust museums around the world, asking for artifacts that she could display and use to teach Japanese children about the Holocaust (the suitcase sent to Fumiko from Auschwitz was in fact a copy - Hana's original suitcase, along with hundreds of other suitcases belonging to concentration camp victims, was unfortunately destroyed in a suspicious nighttime warehouse fire in 1984 in England, during a Holocaust exhibition).
The book is very well-written, and alternates chapters between Czechoslovakia in the 1930s and early 1940s, Tokyo in the year 2000 - early 2001, and Toronto in the year 2000 - early 2001. Sprinkled liberally throughout the book are many photographs, mostly of Hana and George Brady and their family before the war, but also of Fumiko and the group of Japanese children from her Centre that call themselves Small Wings.
Having read the book, I looked online for further information, and found a beautiful website run by the Brady family, devoted to the story of Hana and her suitcase: [...] . There is a wonderful interactive component to the website (click down in the lower right-hand corner on 'Visit Hana's Online Experience') whereby one can experience nearly first-hand what it was like to be Hana and George Brady - old photographs interspersed with video footage (using actors to portray Hana and George and other family members) and 360-degree video re-creations of such locations as the Brady's general store in Nove Mesto and the work camp at Terezin, along with Fumiko's office in Tokyo, allow the user to immerse themselves in the scenes and click on objects in the scenes that tell both Hana's story and also the path travelled by Fumiko so many years later as she sought to discover who Hana Brady was.
Aimed at a pre-teen, early-teen audience, Hana's Suitcase appeals to all ages. I read the book with my 11 year old over a few nights: he was riveted by the story in a way I've rarely seen. Other parents report similar reactions. The book is illustrated with many poignant family photos and original documents. Hana's Suitcase will greatly advance your child's undertsanding of the Holocaust and of humanity's capacity for both great evil and tremendous compassion. I've recommended the book successfuly to many others; my son's class will soon study it. Be forewarned, especially if you are a parent: you may find the final chapters impossible to read without losing your composure. It is a story of unbearable loss and ultimate healing. The book follows an original radio documentary, which can be heard at the website of CBC Radio.
This book was so sad! It is about this suitcase that arrives to a Holocaust Center in Japan and the story behind the little girl who used own it. The curator Fumiko crosses half the planet to find out what happened to Hana as she was taken from her home and killed just because she was Jewish. I really didn't understand what happened at the Holocaust until I read this book. Hana Brady had a normal life until the war started. Do we really need to destroy people's lives with a war, again?