Friday, 10 August 2012

The Terrible Suitcase

The Terrible Suitcase The Terrible Suitcase by Emma Allen, illustrated by Freya Blackwood (Omnibus Books)
HB RRP $24.99
ISBN 978-1-86291-940-2
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

The first day of school is a big experience. It is long awaited and anticipated with a mixture of nervousness and excitement. So imagine how you’d feel it you were given a terrible suitcase instead of the red backpack with rockets which you desperately wanted as a going-to-school present. Would it make you mad, mad, MAD?

It certainly makes the main character in The Terrible Suitcase mad, especially when her friend Howard is given the backpack with rockets and all the other children starting school have incredible new backpacks.

This charming story about starting school, fitting in and outer space is told through the eyes of a girl with strength, passion and a glorious imagination. The story follows her predicament as she moves through mad, grumpy, and sulky until she slowly eases herself out of her moods.

I haven’t read many picture books which are written in the first person and it makes this story refreshingly intimate. Children will be able to get inside the head of the character and relate to her. It reminds me a little of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, (a great favourite in our house when my children were young) in the way that it explores how moods and actions can build up and affect the day.

Although there is far more text than is usual in a picture book for preschoolers, the words flow beautifully and fit the character and voice, making it a pleasure to read aloud.

There is much to explore in the beautifully soft but busy illustrations. There are many children doing different things, with different backpacks and different personalities.

The appeal of rockets and space travel is wide and young children will respond to the imagination of both the text and the pictures. This is a picture book well worth including in any young person’s book collection.

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