#257 – Hana’s Suitcase, Anniversary Album by Karen Levine

 International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Today, January 27, 2013

In honor of the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, on January 27, 2013, the anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, dedicated this year to remembering the children who perished at the hands of the Nazis. In that vein, today we have the most awarded book in Canada, Hana’s Suitcase by Karen Levine. Second Story Press has released an anniversary edition of Hana’s Suitcase that included photographs  paintings, letters, poems, and a special edition CD, where George Brady and Fumiko Ishioka tell the story of Hana Brady, age thirteen.


Hana’s Suitcase Anniversary Album

by Karen Levine

Second Story Presslogo_123377_web (1)

6 Stars


Back Cover:  In the Spring of 2002, Fumiko Ishioka, the curator of a small Holocaust education center in Tokyo, received an empty suitcase from the Auschwitz museum.  It was marked “Hana Brady, May 16, 1931, Orphan.”  Fumiko and the children at the center were determined to learn what became of Hana all those years ago.  The heartbreaking story they uncovered—of a brave young girl killed in the Holocaust and survived only by her brother, George—was captured in Karen Levine’s book Hana’s Suitcase, published in 2002.

Since then, Hana’s Suitcase has become the most awarded children’s book in Canadian history and has been published in more than forty-five countries around the world.  People of all ages and walks of life have taken Hana into their hearts.  No one could have imagined that a humble suitcase would spark such a journey.


Hana’s Suitcase is the most impressive story I have ever read.  At once inspiring and horrible, it is the story of one little girl’s loss of family, and then self, during the world’s worst moment in history—Hitler and his Nazi regime.  Hana’s story is as uplifting as it is sad and one which should never be allowed to be forgotten.  Hana first lost her mother, arrested by the Gestapo.  A short time later, her father was arrested in a sweep of Jewish men.  Hana and her brother, George, went to live with their aunt and uncle until they too, were relocated by the Germans.

Once at Theresienstadt—Terezin,Czechoslovakia—Hana and George were separated into different “camps.”  Hana was too young to leave the building she was assigned to, so she rarely saw her brother.  Her life revolved around assignments and chores, secret classes and new friends. Each day a list went up of those that were again being relocated.  This time the relocation was to Auschwitz, a concentration camp to the east.  George was relocated first.  He used the plumbing skills he acquired at Theresienstadt and survived.  When Hana was relocated the Germans were losing the war.  They had stepped up the relocations trying to eradicate as many Jewish people as they could before wars end.  Hana did not survive Auschwitz.

In 2002, Fumiko Ishioka began trying to find the owner of a brown suitcase that had arrived from the museum at Auschwitz. The suitcase had a name—Hanna Brady—and a date—May 16, 1931—and one word—orphan—written in white on its top.  The children at Tokyo’s Holocaust Center wanted to know more about Hana and asked their instructor to find all she could about the girl.  Hana’s Suitcase intertwines Fumiko’s struggle to gain information about Hana and her eventual triumph in finding Hana’s brother, George, who was living in Toronto.


I found it interesting that children in Japan knew nothing of the Holocaust.  How could any country, especially one that had been allied with Germany, not know of the Holocaust?  I think of Japan and the atomic bombs that tore that country and killed or disfigured so many, and yet this new generation knew nothing of all the horrors of World War II.  Hana’s story speaks to these children, some of who formed a grouped called Small Wings.  These kids put together a newsletter that goes out to schools across Japan, reminding children about the Holocaust and Hana.  The children at the Tokyo Holocaust Education Resource Center want to know all they can about Hana and her life.  These kids want Hana’s life and struggles remembered, which is what today’s International Holocaust Remembrance Day is all about.

The anniversary edition of Hana’s Suitcase contains the originally told story plus over sixty additional pages of pictures, back-story  children’s pictures and poems inspired by the original book, and letters many children wrote hanas right handafter reading or hearing Hana’s story.  Ms. Levine tells each story with passion.  Before seeing actual pictures of Hana, I could easily picture the thirteen-year-old girl from the descriptive writing style of Ms. Levine.  Yet, there is one loose thread, possibly because the information could not be found.  Why did the Gestapo arrest Hana and George’s mother?  What happened that caught their mother in the Nazi net?

Hana’s Suitcase is the one story everyone should read this year.  In the US, this book will not arrive until early March.  Kid Lit Reviews will post a reminder.  If possible, pre-order to ensure receipt.  This is the tenth anniversary since Ms. Levine wrote and published Hana’s Suitcase, now with twice the number of pages and including items not seen before.  This story has great teaching potential in every grade.  Hana’s story humanizes a war that happened for all a short time ago, except for children.  Children need a story like Hana’s to humanize the Holocaust; to put a face to the victim-less Jewish population that lost their lives when murdered by Hitler and his troops.  Middle graders will find no difficulty reading or understanding Hana’s Suitcase, but will need guidance to completely digest what happened, how it happened, and why it is imperative that the genocide of any race, religion, or of any human factor never happens again.

hana handThe anniversary album contains over sixty pages of additional pictures from George Brady, paintings draw by Hana while at Terezin, pictures, poems and letters from children who have read Hana’s story, and much more.  I am lost for words.  Hana’s story hit me hard.  I knew the ending, yet when it came, it seemed so inconceivable.  Hana’s Suitcase keeps the atrocities alive and puts a human face, a young human face, at the heart of the world’s collective conscious.  Children will, well, enjoy is not the right word, but they will be glad they read Hana’s Suitcase.  The new material sheds more light on Hana and her family.  Hana’s Suitcase, Anniversary Album is an impressive book and one that should be read by everyone.

It is easy to see how Hana’s Suitcase became Canada’s best-loved and awarded children’s book.  Ms. Levine writes two stories into one.  Hana’s story is told, mostly from her brother George’s memory of the time, and Fumiko’s story, retracing her steps as she uncovers Hana’s story despite being told over and over nothing could be found.  George and Fumiko retell the story on an included CD.

The Brady Family story – http://www.hanassuitcase.ca/

Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre – http://www.mhmc.ca/en

Holocaust forgotten – http://www.holocaustforgotten.com/


Hana’s Suitcase Anniversary Album

by Karen Levine   bio    book's site
published by Second Story Press    website
Released on March 1, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-926920-36-8       TRAILER
184 pages
Ages: 9 to 13
Copyright © 2013 by Second Story Press
Text: copyright © 2013 by Karen Levine

The Enhanced eBook

Exclusively available for download from the iBookstore, it brings parents, educators, and schoolchildren a new way to engage with the remarkable story of Hana Brady. The enhanced eBook includes embedded videos from the Emmy-nominated documentary Inside Hana’s Suitcase: A Journey in 18 Chapters, image galleries not available in the print edition, interactive content, and educational pop-ups.To Sample and Buy the Enhanced eBook on iTunes :www.itunes.com/hanassuitcase

released in the US by Orca Books is March 1, 2013

book donated to library courtesy of author & publisher




7 thoughts on “#257 – Hana’s Suitcase, Anniversary Album by Karen Levine

  1. I read the book and I still have it. I really liked the way that the story was told- it was a collaboration and the past and present connected. It was an important reminder that we should never forget the past, and that even though there may be differences in religion or age or gender; we’re all connected because we’re all humans, with feelings and thoughts and we all have a need to socialize with each other and communicate and celebrate our differences- because that what makes us unique. We should be trying to share than separate, share what you know and respect others opinions and beliefs. P.S The pictures in this book are wonderful!

    Thanks for reviewing it- reminds me to read it again- I haven’t for about 6 years now!


    • You are so right, Jenn. Countries, governments, and individuals repeat history all too often. It is past time we learned and grew from ours and others mistakes. I had not heard of Hana’s Suitcase until it was offered for review. I am so glad I read it. This should be on the shelves of classrooms and school libraries everywhere.

      Thank you for stopping by. I enjoyed your post and would love to hear from you again.


  2. This book sounds heart breaking. And we must never forget the horrors of the Holocaust. Thank you for bringing
    this book to my attention. I definitely want to get it and pass it on to others.


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