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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Hana's Suitcase Anniversary Album, by Karen Levine. Second Story Press, 2012. $24.95 ages 8 and up

"More than ever, the children who volunteered at the Center focused their attention on Hana. Led by Maiko, some of them formed a group with a mission to let other kids know about what they were learning. They called their club "Small Wings." Once a month, they met to plan their newsletter. Everyone had a role."

I was totally captivated by this book when I read it ten years ago, and there are few details that I no longer remember. How wonderful that Karen Levine felt the story worthy for a larger audience, and that she did the research needed to bring Hana's story to us.

It was the suitcase that sparked the interest, and the passion of Fumiko Ishioka in Tokyo where she was director of the Holocaust Education Resource Center that brought it to us.  I am sure she had no idea that the story of Hana's suitcase would have worldwide appeal and bring her so much attention. In this new book, published as a tenth anniversary album, we hear the story of Hana and her brother George through careful and thoughtful research, and how that research led to the many discoveries made about Hana's death in Auschwitz. It is a reminder to all of us that we must not forget the atrocities of the past.

Karen Levine read about Fumiko's work and knew that it was a story worth sharing:

“I also knew that this story had elements that were special. It was those special elements that lifted it up and made it possible to do something remarkable with it and for it to have the impact and reach that it did.”

It has been published around the world, and Fumiko, Karen and George have shared her story with too many children and audiences to count. A children's group called Small Wings hopes to instill awareness and compassion for the plight of those we do not know but for their stories. Those who read the book and see their work will see the world through Hana's eyes, and do what they can to change their small part of the world, and their community. Only through tolerance and acceptance can we hope to make the world a better place. Hana has a lesson to teach in every classroom, on every playground, in every school. Ten years later, we hope that it is still happening...or we can read her story again as a reminder. It is a legacy never to be forgotten.

In this new album, the author has included new pages of photos, art and writing done by children who were inspired to have their say...visually and orally...after seeing Fumiko, hearing Hana's story or  participating in Holocaust Memorial Days.

It is worthy of your attention and should be shared with all children over the age of 8. It gives us pause to consider others in our world, and that is a wondrous thing.

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