Karen Levine never had plans to write a book.
Then in 2001, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. radio producer came across an article in the Canadian Jewish News about a young Japanese woman, urged on by Tokyo schoolchildren studying the Holocaust, who traveled halfway round the world to find the owner of a child's battered suitcase. That child, Hana Brady, had died in Auschwitz at age 13, but the determined young woman tracked down Hana's brother George, who had survived Auschwitz and found a new life in Toronto.
Levine made a radio documentary chronicling the meeting between Fumiko Ishioka and George Brady, and that led her to write a children's book, "Hana's Suitcase," a gripping detective story and an inspirational saga.
Since its publication in March 2003, "Hana's Suitcase" has attracted readers in 26 countries and won accolades including the Association of Jewish Libraries' Sydney Taylor Award. Levine, Brady and Ishioka have become ambassadors on behalf of the book, sharing Hana's story with children around the world. Brady, overjoyed to see good coming out of the tale of his sister's death, has ceased having the nightmares that once plagued him. And Levine has unexpectedly found herself in the role of best-selling author.
Still, she's not yet ready to let her own 8-year-old read "Hana's Suitcase."
"I haven't been able to burst that bubble yet," she told The Journal. Growing up in multicultural Toronto, Gabriel Zev is still "totally and completely colorblind," and the thought of introducing an awareness of racism into his world is something Levine finds heartbreaking. -- BG