Old Brown Suitcase, The

The Old Brown Suitcase, by Lillian Boraks-Nemetz

The Old Brown Suitcase

by Lillian Boraks-Nemetz


  • Spring 2008
  • ISBN 978-1-55380-057-6 (1-55380-057-5)
  • 5-1/4″ x 7-5/8″ Trade Paperback, 204 pages
  • Young Reader Novel – Ages 9 to 12

The Old Brown Suitcase, an award winning book that has sold extraordinarily well both nationally and internationally, now appears in a new edition by Ronsdale Press. The novel narrates the absorbing story of a young girl who survived the Holocaust against all odds.

At age fourteen, Slava comes to Canada with her parents and sister and a suitcase filled with memories of a lost childhood, memories that now haunt her new life. She cannot forget the hunger, stench and disease in the Warsaw Ghetto, nor the fear and humiliation of being incarcerated behind a high brick wall. She cannot forget her extraordinary escape from the Ghetto when she walked alone through the gate while the guards were looking the other way. Nor can she forget being swallowed up in a strange and unknown place to survive under a hidden identity.

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. This new edition appends notes on the Warsaw ghetto and a bibliography for future reading.

Also by Lillian Boraks-Nemetz:


Reviews & Awards

Winner, Sheila Egoff B.C. Book Prize

Winner, Rachel Bassin Prize, Toronto

Shortlisted for the Geoffrey Bilson Award

Canadian Children’s Book Centre Choice

Placed on the B.C. School recommended reading list

Slava (the French translation) chosen by Communication Jeunesse as one of the best French language books for young readers

“unusual and compelling”
Globe and Mail

“wonderful. Twice I was reduced to tears.”
Toronto Star

“this book is a fabulous read for anyone interested in historical fiction”
What If? Magazine

“Throughout the novel, beginning with the Lenski family’s arrival in Montreal, chapters detailing events in Poland (Warsaw and Zalesie) are interleaved with ones describing Slava’s Canadian experiences. This formal disruption of linear time and space works to strengthen the reader’s awareness of the significance of earlier events to immigrants’ understanding of themselves in their new homelands. Additionally, and more pointedly, the juxtaposition serves to underscore the alterity and intense difficulty of Slava’s earlier life. . . . Boraks-Nemetz achieves a kind of referential integrity that links her fiction to the historical genocide.”
Jeunesse: Young People, Texts, Cultures