Hana's suitcase by Karen Levine

cover image

Allen & Unwin, 2014. ISBN 9781742317679.
(Age:10+) Recommended. War, Holocaust, Japan. As director of the Holocaust Museum in Tokyo, Fumika Ishioka wanted to have something tangible to present to the children who visited. She asked far and wide and only Auschwitz sent a box of things, including a suitcase with a girl's name printed on the top. This started the children visiting the centre, to ask questions, and so a small group of children along with Fumiko, investigated further. When in Prague she went to the Holocaust Museum and there found that the child had been killed at Auschwitz but she had a brother. This then led to further letters and enquiries, and finally the man was found and came to Tokyo to see the museum and talk to the children.
Told in alternate chapters, readers will easily assimilate the information about Hana and her family and what happened to them, alongside the story of Fumiko and her search. Each story compliments the other as we are breathless in wanting to know how each journey unfolds. One is very sad with Hana being killed in a camp, while the other brings her back to life as her brother is found and Hana's dream of becoming a teacher comes true.
The impact of this tale is powerful, its seemingly simple story of reuniting a man with his sister's suitcase is the basis for talk about where they were and why, how one survived and not the other, what happened to the rest of their family, and what happens today in remembering the horror of those times.
The original book is here presented with additions, telling what has happened since, and with additional chapters about Hana's brother, the letters received at the museum from children allover the world, the quilts, the displays, exhibitions and awards received by the original book. All add to the original story and will warm the readers that the story has lived on.
Fran Knight