Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
- Age: 9 to 13
- Grade: 4 to 8
- Reading age: 9 to 13
In March 2000, a suitcase arrived at a children's Holocaust education center in Tokyo, Japan from the Auschwitz museum in Germany. Fumiko Ishioka, the center's curator, was captivated by the writing on the outside that identified its owner: "Hana Brady, May 16, 1931, Waisenkind (the German word for orphan)." Children visiting the center were full of questions. Who was Hana Brady? Where did she come from? What was she like? What happened to her? Inspired by their curiosity and her own need to know, Fumiko began a year of detective work, scouring the world for clues. Her search led her from present-day Japan, Europe and North America back to 1938 Czechoslovakia to learn the story of Hana Brady, a fun-loving child with wonderful parents, a protective big brother, and a passion for ice skating, their happy life turned upside down by the invasion of the Nazis.
About the author
Karen Levine is a prizewinning producer with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) Radio. Karen has won awards for her radio work, including two Peabody Awards - the Oscars of radio. She originally produced Hana’s Suitcase as a radio documentary before making it into a book. Though she travels widely to talk about the book, she makes her home in Toronto with her partner and her son.
- Commended, Rebecca Caudill Young Readers’ Book Award
- Winner, Yad Vashem Prize for Children's Holocaust Literature
- Winner, British Columbia Library Association – Red Cedar Award (Non-fiction)
- Winner, Skipping Stones Honor Award
- Commended, IRA Notable Book for a Global Society
- Commended, IRA Children’s Book Award, Notable Book Intermediate Non-fiction
- Winner, Rocky Mountain Book Award: Alberta Children’s Choice
- Commended, Cooperative Children's Book Centre Choices
- Commended, IRA Teachers’ Choices
- Commended, American Library Association's Notable Children's Books for Middle Readers
- Short-listed, Parent’s Guide to Children’s Media Award
- Winner, Hackmatack Children’s Choice Book Award (Non-fiction)
- Winner, Great Lakes Great Books Award
- Short-listed, Flora Stieglitz Straus Award for Non-fiction
- Commended, IBBY-Canada Honour List
- Winner, UNICEF Paolo Ungari Literary Award
- Commended, Canadian Jewish Book Awards - Issac Frischwasser Memorial Award in Children’s Literature
- Winner, National Chapter Of Canada IODE Violet Downey Book Award
- Winner, Canadian Library Association "Book of the Year for Children"
- Winner, Ontario Library Association - Golden Oak Award
- Commended, Canadian Children's Book Centre's Our Choice Annual, Starred Selection
- Winner, Information Book Award
- Winner, Jewish Book Council Award
- Winner, Canadian National Institute of the Blind – Torgi Literary Award
- Winner, White Ravens Award, International Children's Digital Library
- Short-listed, Ontario Library Association – Silver Birch Award (Non-fiction)
- Commended, Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children’s Non-Fiction – Honour Book
- Commended, Quill & Quire Best Books of 2002
- Short-listed, Governor General’s Awards – Children’s Literature, Text
- Commended, Association of Jewish Libraries Sydney Taylor Award – A Notable Book for Older Readers
Such a simple little book and yet so powerful. This true story will touch the hearts of young and old – and rather than be just unbearably sad it also opens a window of hope for out next generation – hope that all the cultures live in peace.
Fraser Coast Chronicle
Magic stems from a true story. Some of the connections forged amidst the most seemingly chaotic and unconnected events make for sagas that only happen in real life. The story of Hana’s Suitcase is such a saga. Few story tellers could weave the tangled webs of Hana’s Suitcase and achieve a believable plot – yet this take, linking people of three continents during a period of 70 years, defies fairy tales – it is pure magic, albeit born of sheer, absolute evil.
The Holocaust is a difficult topic to discuss with children, but Hana's Suitcase by Karen Levine is an excellent way for parents and teachers to introduce this tough subject to children age 10 and up. The book is to be shared and discussed-- readers will need to talk about the issues raised in the story. Hana's Suitcase reveals not only the story of Hana Brady's Short life and the life of her brother who survived, but it also shows the impact the suitcase has had on the children of Small Wings in Japan. The suitcase is being used in Japan to teach children tolerance, respect and compassion. The book does the same for readers in Canada.
Although it is suitable for a wide range of ages, it is particularly valuable for children who want to learn more about the Holocaust. Levine’s simple style of writing and then beautiful photos and reproductions of Hana’s drawings encourage readers to connect with Hana as a real human being rather than just another Holocaust statistic. In a way that would otherwise never have been possible, Hana has become the teacher she always dreamt of being.
Part of the difficulty for today’s children reading about the Holocaust is that, for most of them, it was another place, another time, and therefore another world – remote and unreal. The other problem, of course, is that it is an overwhelmingly tragic story. However, this book deftly and imaginatively overcomes these difficulties. It brings the story into the present, it makes Hana’s world as familiar as our own, and it tells the uplifting story of how the details of her life were uncovered by a determined Japanese woman.
It is both achingly sad and joyful as this little girl tries her best to stay bright and happy in the midst of brutality. Hana’s Suitcase fits an incredible range of emotions into its 112 pages. Hana dreamed of becoming a teacher. This book shows that, finally, she did. Today, her story teaches children throughout Japan about the Holocaust and humanity.
Levine writes at a walking pace and with a limited vocabulary, but the ups and down, the narrow timing of Ishioka’s search, give the story momentum and suspense. Brady’s more distant and general recollections of Hana enliven with anecdotes, provide a glimpse of a warm hearted, engaging girl whose innocent aspirations and pleasure underscore the unspeakable horror of Nazi crimes. Like the very best of museum exhibits, Hana’s Suitcases shows how facts and objects can be put together to honour its subject in a very personal and loving way. Highly recommended.
The Toronto Star
Written in deceptively simple language, capable of pleasing children and adults, Hana’s Suitcase is an extraordinarily powerful book.
This remarkable, true story allows the young reader to understand the impact of the Holocaust on families and individuals, and to realize that each person has the capability of making a difference. Beautifully written.
The Canadian Jewish News
Hana’s story is empowering kids to believe they can change the future and that through their actions they can have a powerfully positive force in the world to make it a safer and happier place.
I found this book special. I enjoyed seeing the photos and pictures that Hana had drawn. To me Hana was a girl like any other except she was born into an era where being Jewish could change your life. Hana’s Suitcase is an emotional story about a young girl’s hopes, dreams and tragedies.
Townsville Bulletin General News
Although based on a true story, this book does come close to being a work of faction in which known facts about Hana and her life are interwoven with Klein’s imaginative description of Hana’s emotional life, concerns, and thoughts. Whatever category it fits into, it is certainly a moving read.
When a suitcase bearing the name of Hana Brady arrives at a Holocaust education centre in Tokyo, curator Fumiko Ishioka becomes obsessed with discovering the story of the young orphan who once owned the suitcase. The resulting search for information about Hana, her life, and her family makes for gripping reading in this true story. Part detective story, part historical narrative, and part tribute to Hana and the other children whose lives were ended by the Nazis, this is a beautiful, sad, and deeply respectful book of determinations, healing and closure.