Sarah's Stars

Karen Levine. Hana's Suitcase
Second Story  $16.99  ISBN 1-896764-61-4  111 pg.
Reviewed by Meghan, Age 14

The town's general store was on the ground floor. There, you could buy almost anything …  buttons, jam, oil lamp and rakes, sleigh bells, stones for sharpening knives, dishes, paper and pens and candy. On the second floor lived the Brady family: father Karel, mother Marketa, Hana and her big brother George.

This ordinary brown suitcase once belonged to a girl named Hana. A small blond, blue eyed girl, who loved to figure-skate, and wanted to be a teacher. Hana was like every other girl her age, except for one thing, she was a Jew. When the Nazi's begin their conquest of Europe, Hana knows her simple life in Czechoslovakia will be no more. She can no longer go to school, she must not leave the house, and she can never see her friends again. Soon her parents are taken away, gone to the concentration camps. Then she and her brother George must to leave. Through it all Hana remains confident that she will see her family again, and bravely faces the cruelty and hardship of day-to-day life. With pictures, drawings and words, Karen Levine tells the stark truth, about one little girl and the Holocaust.

Really, it's a very ordinary looking suitcase. A little tattered around the edges, but in good condition. It's brown. It's big. You could fire quite a lot in it--clothes for a long trip, maybe. Books, games, treasures, toys. But there is nothing inside now.

Everyday children come to a little museum in Tokyo, Japan, to see this suitcase. It sits in a glass cabinet. And through the glass you can see that there is writing on the suitcase. In white paint, across the front, there is a girl's name: Hana Brady. A date of birth: May 16, 1931. And one other word: Waisenkind. That's the German word for orphan.

Within Hana's Suitcase is another story, that of Fumiko Ishioka, director of the Tokyo Holocaust Center. In preparing to set up an exhibit called 'Holocaust Seen Through Children’s Eyes’, Fumiko stumbles across Hana's suitcase, and sets out on a quest to find out what happened to Hana. Along the way she discovers more and more about the little girl, and what her life was like before the war. In the end, she has an exhibit that reaches out and grabs you. It tells the story of Hana Brady.

Every time I read Hana's suitcase, it brings me to the point of tears. I agree with the Small Wings, that children everywhere should know and understand about the Holocaust, in order to prevent such a thing happening again. Hana's Suitcase reaches out and draws you into the world of a very brave young woman. The pictures and drawings add so much to the story. Thank you to Karen Levine, for bringing this story to life, and thank you to Fumiko Ishioka, for wanting to find out what happened to Hana.

I would recommend Hana's Suitcase for children ages 12 and up. I believe that adults too, will be touched by the story of Hana.  I would give Hana's Suitcase five stars out of five.


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