Just like the visitor in this book, The Suitcase showed up unexpectedly at my door! It’s a really gorgeous book, so I was very happy to be chosen to receive it.
Book: The Suitcase by Chris Naylor-Ballesteros
Read before: No
Ownership: Review copy sent free of charge by Nosy Crow. All opinions my own.
This book has some really lovely design – it’s a hardback, so pleasant to hold, and I love the kind of vintage post look with the cream and the red. The artwork is simple, and somehow manages to be muted and bright at the same time, which I found very striking and attractive! The art really appeals to me in its simplicity and hand-drawn style, and I think it would catch the eye of a smaller reader too – for example, each of the animals has one main colour, so is easy to identify, and the fact that they are all warmer colours, while the stranger is bluey-green, is a nice nod to their view of him as an outsider.
The main theme of the book is kindness and thoughtfulness towards others, even if they are different. I was surprised how overt the ‘othering’ was – right from the start, when the stranger arrives, it is clear that there is tension in the group between those who are less tolerant and those inclined to give the stranger a chance. However, the less tolerant animal convinces everyone to come around to their way of thinking, which is a pretty clear reflection of what happens when people don’t speak out against hate. The animals behave horribly to the stranger, breaking his things, when he has been nothing but trusting (he goes right to sleep in front of them, thinking he has found safety), but I was really glad to see them come to their own conclusion that their actions were awful, and apologise with both words and deeds.
The link to racism and the refugee crisis is clear to an adult reader, but I think would be subtle to a younger reader – either way, it definitely encourages kindness and generosity to strangers. It was nice to see the animals realise how badly they had behaved, and start to make amends towards the stranger for their rudeness. It’s a very positive thing to show that even if you have previously been prejudiced or horrible in some way, you can change and be better if you try. There’s more of a character arc in this picture book than in some novels!
The gorgeous art, the simple message, and the compelling story make this an absolutely lovely book, which I think will be a heartwarming hit with those looking for something with depth to read to their little ones. It’s really sweet. I definitely recommend it!