The Old Brown Suitcase narrates the story of Slava and her family as a Jewish family living in Poland during the Second World War. The story details her childhood, a war-torn Poland, being forced into the Warsaw Ghetto, having to leave her parents and her baby sister, and many other events. When Slava and her family finally made it to Canada, she had to become “Elizabeth” and still hide their past in towns in Quebec and Ontario.
The story juxtaposes heart-wrenching scenes from a child’s life in war-torn Poland with the life of a teenager trying to adjust to a new country in time of peace. In Canada, it is not easy for Slava to build a bridge between two cultures; nor is it easy to live with the turmoil of her immediate past. At the same time she must face the new challenges involved in being an immigrant, a Jew and a teenage girl. [Publisher: Ronsdale Press]
It was really unique to read a story about a Jewish family during WWII that didn’t actually practice Judaism, but were still persecuted. This award-winning story was written by British Columbian author, Lillian Boraks-Nemetz, who survived the Holocaust in Warsaw, Poland. It’s a straight-forward plot, but it is a story with a lot of power and emotion. I think this novel especially important for youth studying WWII to read as it relates directly to the humanist aspect of war-torn communities, not only the historic facts. Highly recommended children’s literature.
Full disclosure: I read a copy of the book that we received in the office. This situation did not affect my review in any way, shape or form.