I must admit I was little nervous about this and was intrigued to find out, but I should have known the secret would simply lie in outward appearances. Clunky old suitcases aren’t cool for just-about-to-start-school kids – no way. Everyone else has super cool backpacks. With torches and drink bottle compartments and super cute stickers.
But not our little heroine, who is inexplicably condemned to ugly suitcase hell. Golly, I truly felt horrified for this child, lumbered with this daggy old clunker for no apparent reason at all.
As her first day at school unfolds, as grumbly as can be, the suitcase soon becomes a magical focal point for our narrator and her classmates. It’s a toolkit, it’s a super computer, it’s an integral part of a spaceship game – and a vessel for those all important spacefood sticks. In this way, its super presence brings a group of uneasy first-day kids together, offering comfort as well as friendship.
This is a lovely story on not what a suitcase is but what it could potentially be, however, the ending is confusing, with no tie in to preceding text or imagery and no effective wrap-up.
Freya Blackwood’s iconically sketchy illustrations are beautifully and most typically whimsical and gorgeous, and help lend form to an otherwise charming story.
The Terrible Suitcase is published by Scholastic.