The Suitcase Kid might have been the first Jacqueline Wilson book I ever read; I think I picked it up to fill one of those post-sleepover mornings at a neighbours house when I was the first to wake up. I didn’t have my own copy, so it wasn’t one of the books I could revisit and I’d forgotten almost everything except the basic premise and the inclusion of a Sylvanian Families toy, of which I was envious even as a child. (Not of the toy itself, so much, as of the specialness. Despite priding myself on my imagination, I never had a special toy, let alone one that I believe was real and treated as an imaginary friend.)
I saw another hole in the tree. There was a small doll-size doormat at the edge with WELCOME in very tiny cross-stitch. I peeped past the mat and there was my own darling radish stretched out happily on her own little wooden sofa, her head propped on a blue velvet cushion.The Suitcase Kid, Jacqueline Wilson
Jacqueline Wilson’s plot is simple enough, but charming. Reading children’s books, it’s often much easier to see the structure of a story than in more complicated works. In this case, Andy is sad about her family circumstances, and Jacqueline Wilson slowly introduces things which help her adapt to her new situation until she feels happy again, with a small crisis just before the resolution. It’s not ground-breaking, but the details are delightful, especially all Radish’s adventures, and Nick Sharratt’s illustrations of them.
And I get to live in my mum’s house one week and my dad’s house the next. It’s as easy as ABC. I don’t think.The Suitcase Kid, Jacqueline Wilson
Even for someone who’s never been in Andy’s situation, her character felt relatable. While her step-siblings aren’t given vast amounts of page time, they felt more-or-less real, especially Katie and Graham. Zen and Crystal, by contrast, aren’t as fully fleshed-out as they could have been. The theme of finding a new home, and getting used to a new family situation, is definitely relatable outside the specific circumstances of divorce, and the way Jacqueline Wilson tied that to the arrival of new infant siblings was particularly effective.
The Suitcase Kid was a very welcome change of pace, and I’ll definitely be holding onto my copy now that I have one of my very own!