BOOK REVIEWS

Hana's Suitcase (Bank Street College of Education Flora Stieglitz Straus Award (Awards)) Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2018-04-09 
Review Score: 4 out of 5 star From 96 user ratings
ISBN:0807531480
LANGUAGE:English

"I begin by honestly saying this simply written book impacted me on a very deep level. Having recently finished The Reader by Bernhard Schlink, a novel of beauty and poignancy, I still carry the haunting memories of the character of Hana Schmitz, a woman who, as a prison guard at a small camp near Cracow, determined the fate of children sent to their death.

As I read Hana's Suitcase, I couldn't help but think about the two Hana's -- one adult fictionalized character for a novel, yet based on real life situations, and the other Hana, a real life child who suffered at Auschwitz by the hands of powerful guards who held her fragile life in balance.

In March of 2000 a tattered suitcase was sent from the Auschwitz Centre to the Children's Holocaust Education Center in Tokyo, Japan. Miraculously surviving 69 years, the suitcase bore the inscription Hanna Brady 625, May 16, 1931, Waisenkind.

Fumiko Ishioka, the director of the Tokyo center, wisely used the suitcase as an instrument of learning for the students who visited. Soon, the students and Ishioka became obsessed with finding the pieces of the puzzle to the story of Hanna the "Waisenkind", a word meaning orphan in German.

What they found and shared with others is a testimony to kindness, to goodness, to perseverance and to a wonderful story of hope that transcends the inhumanity of horror.

In a simple and beautfiul style, Levine alternates the journey of Fumiko and her students with the journey of a lovely young woman from Nove Mesto Czechoslovakia whose only "fault" was that she happened to be Jewish at a time when Hitler was bent on exterminating her culture, her race and identity.

This is a dramatic book filled with light that shines through the darkness.

Highly recommended!
" said.

"Summary:
“Hana’s Suitcase” is the story of Hana Brady and her family, told by Fumiko Ishioka, the director of a Japanese Holocaust museum. The story alternates between recalling the events of Hana’s life in the past and how Fumiko and others at the museum are feeling about Hana’s life. Fumiko received Hana’s suitcase to be on display in the museum. Upon receiving it, Fumiko instantly wanted to find out more about this little girl. She wanted to know who Hana Brady was, what she looked like, where she came from, and just about anything she could find out about Hana.
Hana’s suitcase was sent from Auschwitz and arrived with the word Waisenkind printed on it. Waisenkind is the German word for orphan. The fact that this word was one the suitcase intrigued Fumiko even more. Fumiko travels to Czechoslovakia to find out who Hana Brady is. There, she is able to find out some of the names of some of Hana’s family members and some about Hana’s life before Auschwitz. The contents of this suitcase were the only possessions Hana was allowed to bring when she was ordered to leave her home in Nove Mesto. Hana and her brother George were ordered to deport together and then separated once arriving in the concentration camp. Fumiko learns that although Hana and George were separated, George is still alive. Fumiko encourages students at the museum to contact George. The story culminates with George experiencing the memorial that has been set up for Hana
Response:
I extremely enjoyed reading “Hana’s Suitcase”! Hana’s story was very captivating to me. I wanted to know more and more about her, just as Fumiko did. Hana’s story was very touching and when her brother was able to see the exhibit set up for Hana, I could feel his joy. Since this book is both captivating and informational, I think it deserves a five star rating. The book “Hana’s Suitcase” reminds me of “The Diary of Anne Frank”. Both books tell the story of young Jewish girls during the Holocaust.
Classroom Connection:
Students in the story wrote to George Brady. I think a good follow up activity after reading this book could be to have students write their own letter. They could write about their thought about Hana’s story or questions they have for Fumiko or George Brady. This book could be a supplemental tool for learning about the Holocaust. Since the Holocaust is a very dark time, reading about the children of the time period could help students relate and understand how the children felt back then.
CCSS:
Grade level: 5.2 Lexile: 730L GR:Y
" said.

"I find it very difficult to rate a book that is centred on the Holocaust. There is no possible way to properly rate a book that gets into the events of such a dark time in our history. Sure, terrible things happened throughout history. The Plague, the Crusades, the exile of Jews during the medieval ages, the Thirty Years' War, World War I, the events that took place during World War II (the eradication of ethnic Poles, the Dutch, the Soviets, and other non-Jewish groups).

However, how can you rate books that get into this type of history? One stars implies ignorance of the events of the Second World War and of the Holocaust. Five stars implies that one doesn't know the full scale of destruction during the Second World War and the Holocaust.

Hana's Suitcase is a heartbreaking story. It is about a very real girl who had been targeted by Hitler and his regime because of the fact that she was a Jewess. The sad part is that this isn't a book that is based entirely on a real event with fictional characters, but a real event that takes a look at the life and death of a young child. Her death had nothing to do with the fact that she followed a religion. Her murder had something to do with the fact that she identified herself as a Jewess and had Jewish parents and a Jewish upbringing.

The one thing that really affected me was the fact that Hana's suitcase wasn't a story at all. A story implies that it is a work of fiction. A trivial thing. You can make happy endings with a story and you can make a tragic ending with a story. Hana's suitcase is a history. A history of a young girl who had no chance of survival in a time when Hitler's Nazis wanted to eradicate the Jews and everything they stood for. However, more than that, Hana's Suitcase is about a young girl who had every hope of survival. This is a history, a biography, and is most certainly not a feeble story that one can take on and warp into a happy ending.

This book was inspired by a Japanese school teacher who had wanted to teach Holocaust studies to her young students. It all started with a suitcase. An item that had no meaning whatsoever because the person who had owned it had disappeared in history. The name upon it, however, forced young children to realize that there is a lot more to a suitcase than what it appears to be. There is a history behind such an item. It had been owned by somebody that had lost her life due to somebody else's hatred.

This book follows the life of Hana, what happened to her and her brother, and then what happens in the years between the time she had last seen her brother until her death at a Concentration Camp.

It is a very sad book. However, I am very glad to see that Hana's Suitcase is dedicated to children and teaching children about the Holocaust. This is very real history. The Nazis had been successful in destroying millions of lives. Books like these allow those victims a chance to be remembered. Hana Brady is forever immortalized in a book dedicated to putting a very human face to one more victim of the Holocaust.
" said.

" Great book, short read, heartbreaking story - wish I read this as a kid because it seems to be catered towards a lower age group, but important story nonetheless. " said.

" Uma abordagem diferente às vítimas do Holocausto. Gostei bastante, embora a narrativa estivesse mais orientada para o público juvenil. Uma boa alternativa ao Diário de Anne Frank, quando temos de recomendar livros juvenis dentro do tema.3,5 a 4 estrelas. " said.

" Hana's Suitcase isn't only historical; it's a glimpse into terror, given through the eyes of a child as her belongings are inspected. Each item tells a vivid story of the true horror of WWII, which was possibly one of the darkest moments in human history. Filled with photographs and detailed text, Hana's Suitcase is definitely worth reading. " said.

"This book will break your heart. You know that Hana's story will not have a happy ending, but that is only part of the story. The uplifting part is how a teacher and her students didn't let go of the idea of Hana after getting her suitcase. That they wanted to know more about her, if she was like them. I loved that tracking Hana down lead to her brother. While the initial contact had to open a long bury wound, I loved how George was able to share his sister with people that cared about her and how in her death Hana has reached so many people." said.

"After all these years reading about and studying the Holocaust I am still rocked to my core by the horrors and brought to my knees in tears over the tragic end of millions of people. I am also filled with hope when people take the time and make the effort to delve into one the most ugly parts of human history and find stories of survival, love and life! The fact that we are still seeing atrocities the world over let's me know that human kind is still so ignorant and that survivor's stories and those who didn't make it are so important! Let us never forget and stop letting history repeat itself!!!" said.

June 2018 New Book:

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