The terrible suitcase by Emma Allen

cover image

Ill. by Freya Blackwood. Scholastic, 2012. ISBN 978 1 86291 940 2.
(Ages 6+) Highly recommended. Picture book. Imagination.
About to experience her first day at school, the story's hero is distraught when her mother gives her an ordinary red suitcase to hold her things. It is nothing like the lovely red backpack that she really wants, with the yellow rocket ship zooming up the back, and large pockets with a shiny zip, so when her friend, Howard comes to play with the exact same backpack that she wanted, she loses her cool and throws play dough at him.
At school the next day she notices all the lovely backpacks that the other students in her class have, and hides in the giant cardboard rocket in the classroom. Here she is joined by Millie who wants to go home, and then Ruby who uses the red suitcase as a toolkit to fix the rocket, and Max who uses the suitcase to fix the computer to fly the rocket, and so the group flies into space in their rocket ship with the red suitcase being used for a variety of things, not least of which is containing the space food which helps Millie remain where she is. That night, she is perfectly happy with her suitcase as she packs it for the following day, ready to go to the moon.
Imagination makes the suitcase an extremely useful thing to have in the cardboard rocket, and the illustrations reflect the wonderful things the group of children imagine it to be. The spaceship changes from being a cardboard box to an elongated, pointy ended rocket ship, while the suitcase becomes a variety if useful things, allowing the hero of the story see it in a different light. The rows of children at their first day of school, illustrated in their various clothes and positions on the floor or in space, are delightful, inviting the readers to ponder their own first days and the imaginative play they were involved in. At the same time, children could ponder issues of being satisfied with what you have, or about accepting presents, or sharing with others and friendship. This wonderful book has limitless possibilities in linking to discussions in the classroom, but also introducing a unit about space.
Fran Knight