Friday, 24 May 2019

ReadItDaddy's Picture Book of the Week - Week Ending 24th May 2019: "The Suitcase" by Chris Naylor-Ballesteros (Nosy Crow)

Our Picture Book of the Week this week could be seen as an 'easy' choice to heap praise upon.

After all, the core subject matter of "The Suitcase" by Chris Naylor Ballesteros has been covered in many, many other children's picture books for a wide range of ages.

But there's a lot to be said for introducing the concept of kindness in early years, particularly towards folk who fetch up on our shores from other countries to make a new home here either by their own choice or through horrific situations in their countries of origin.

The reason we're heaping praise on "The Suitcase" isn't just from some hive-mind book-blogging 'need' to praise each and every issues book.

No, it's the sheer genius with which this is executed.

The book starts out with a weary stranger, dragging the titular suitcase along behind them. They're the new animal in town, and the animals the poor creature first meets are instantly suspicious and wary of the stranger.

"So what's in the case?" they ask. The weary creature just wants to rest, but begins to spin a tale of what he's carrying. A teacup, a table, a chair, a comfy little cabin in which to house all those objects.

Exhausted, the poor animal finally collapses into a fitful sleep - at which point the book does something pretty surprising. It draws a huge fat line under some pretty despicable behaviour as the three animals who witnessed the stranger's arrival, and didn't believe a word of the stranger's story of what was in the case actually break the case open to find out what's really inside for themselves.

This was the moment in the story where both C and I looked at each other. "That's AWFUL!" she wailed. "Why would they do such a thing?"

As the stranger sleeps, it takes mere moments before the animals realise just how crappy their behaviour is - but what to do? The case is broken, the china cup that was inside is chipped and broken - and the photograph of the table, chair, cup and comfy cabin that the stranger was actually carrying becomes the source of an idea - a way the three animals can make up for their horrid act.

This is all conveyed mostly conversationally, paring down the word count to ensure the message can be digested by as wide an audience as possible. I would bet that many folk would come away from this book with various different levels of interpretation of the core powerful message of being kind, and treating strangers a little better - but wow, this is so subtly and cleverly done.

A very deserving book of the week.

Sum this book up in a sentence: Multi-layered storytelling conveyed in simple conversational text, with beautiful but simple illustrations to convey a message of kindness and treating strangers a little better than we currently do.

"The Suitcase" by Chris Naylor-Ballesteros is out now, published by Nosy Crow (kindly supplied for review).