Hana's Suitcase by Karen Levine

In 2000, a suitcase arrived at a children's Holocaust education center in Tokyo, Japan, marked "Hana Brady, May 16, 1931." The center's curator searches for clues to young Hana and her family, whose happy life in a small Czech town was turned upside down by the invasion of the Nazis.


My fellow English teachers and I decided to read this book as a companion novel to Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl as part of our narrative nonfiction/identity unit. Our students responded well to this book, especially since it has a detective novel element to it. The book has two parallel timelines - Hana's story and Fumiko's (curator of the museum in Japan) quest to find out who Hana is and what happened to her. 

It is a quick read and has lots of photographs, which helps bring the story to life. I liked the back and forth between the different timelines. It added a level of suspense which drove the story forward and kept it interesting. Hana's story also provides another perspective to help students better understand the Holocaust, and generated some really great discussions with my students who made connections to current events. While I love Anne Frank's diary, I believe that Hana's Suitcase is an excellent addition to any school/classroom library.

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