This award-winning true Holocaust story, newly updated, connects generations through one woman’s quest to find the truth behind a mysterious suitcase.
In March 2000, Fumiko Ishioka, the curator of a small Holocaust education center in Tokyo, received an empty suitcase from the museum at Auschwitz. On the outside, in white paint, were the words “Hana Brady, May 16, 1931, Orphan.”
Fumiko and the children at the center were determined to find out who Hana was and what happened to her all those years ago, leading them to a startling and emotional discovery.
The dual narrative intertwines Fumiko’s international journey to find the truth about Hana Brady’s fate with Hana’s own compelling story of her life in a quiet Czech town, which is shattered by the arrival of the Nazis, tearing apart the family she loves. This suspense-filled work of investigative nonfiction draws in young readers and makes them active participants in the search for Hana’s identity.
Praise for Hana’s Suitcase
• “Hana wanted to become a teacher, and surely through this little book her dream is being realized.” —Archbishop Desmond Tutu, from his new foreword to Hana’s Suitcase
• “The account . . . is part history, part suspenseful mystery . . . with an incredible climactic revelation.” —Booklist
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.