Review of ‘The Terrible Suitcase’
Written by Emma Allen and Illustrated by Freya Blackwood
Publisher: Omnibus Books
Age Range: Early Childhood – Lower Primary
Themes: starting school, school, classrooms, making friends, acceptance, tantrums, imagination, adventure, space
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When your mother buys you a terrible suitcase as a going to school present instead of the red backpack with rockets and a silver zip that you wanted…the only thing to do is get MAD.
The planet, comet, space station loving main character is so mad that she throws her playdough planets, accidently chews her hologram space station sticker, misses out on custard and generally grumps and sulks. These few pages of the grumping and sulking and still not getting her way will resonate with parents and children alike. With watercolour, gouche and cranky pencil markings and carefully chosen words, Allen and Blackwood have expertly captured the behaviour of this age group.
Despite protests, of course the terrible red suitcase goes to school on the first day. As it turns out our main character learns that sometimes new experiences, new friends and lots of imagination can turn terrible things into the start of wonderful adventures.
This is Emma Allen’s first book, and I’m a tad excited to see where she goes next with her writing. Freya Blackwood? Well the woman is an illustrating genius and can do no wrong in my eyes. Make sure you click through to her website, the images are truly magical.
Follow it up in the home, classroom or library:
- What sort of a schoolbag will you/do you need for starting school?
- Write or draw a list of what you will need to pack in your school bag each day. Have a look what is packed into the ‘terrible suitcase’ for ideas.
- Draw or find a template for a suitcase. Have children decorate the suitcase (as suggested to the main character in the story) and on the flipside draw the contents of the suitcase as suggested above.
- In the story the suitcase becomes many things. Play a game of ‘it’s not a box, it’s a…’ with some everyday objects. This game is excellent for encouraging imaginative thought.
- In the story the children imagine they are going into space. Where would you like to visit in your imagination?
- Build your own space rockets with cardboard boxes.
- Write a list of all the space related words in the story.
- In the story the main character is very MAD. Brainstorm other words to describe being mad. Show your mad face. Now show happy faces, grumpy faces, scared faces, excited faces etc.
- As in the book, set up an imagination corner at home or in your classroom or library. A few props and free play time is all that is needed to start young children on a flight of fantasy. Props should be changed regularly and could include things like boxes, collage materials, soft silky fabrics, some plant samples, or a sensory box filled with coloured rice, water or other materials.
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