Inside the Suitcase
Right from the epigraph inside the front cover, we know we’re in for something special with this book: “A good traveller has no set plans and no destination.’ Lao-tzu and so it seems is the case with Clotilde Perrin’s young boy traveller.
We first encounter the boy inside a delightful little house tucked away behind the hills wherein he stands packing his red suitcase. We’re invited to open this case and view its contents – a seemingly random selection of items. But wait, read on and the importance of each one will be revealed as the journey progresses; a journey that takes the lad across the ocean in a small boat to land on an unknown beach whereon rests a large rock. Behind this stands a small house somewhat similar to the one the boy has left, but how will he gain entrance? How good is the reader’s memory, for this is now a game involving memory.
Once within, the boy makes a discovery; but what will he do with the tempting object? With a decision made and the item stowed safely in his case, the boy consumes one of the things he’d packed and continues his journey. Now he climbs tall, icy mountains – shiver shiver – is there anything in that suitcase to alleviate the cold he’s feeling? At the top of the mountain glowing in the ice is a hole wherein a host of luminous jellyfish swim. How lovely it would be to join them.
Time to check the contents of that suitcase again …
Strangely, having taken the plunge, there beneath the water stands something totally surprising; what could possibly be inside? … A rarity indeed! And definitely something to stow into that suitcase.
Jiggle, jiggle goes the object as the boy continues on his way until there before him is a dark forest wherein lurks – oh no!
Quick, the suitcase might just hold something useful …
Phew, a narrow escape for sure but so deep and black is the darkness that now the boy requires something to help him find his way: saved by a resource from the case again.
Once the night has gone the boy discovers yet another house but there’s nothing much within except a single seed; but a seed of what?
Best to pop it in the case and move on, and so he does, stopping briefly to remove the last item collected from his case before moving through a dense fog cloud behind which stands …
Yes, the boy’s journey has brought him full circle. Is there anything remaining in his suitcase.? I wonder … memories certainly.
Surprises aplenty await any reader in this cleverly designed book into which much has clearly been put, especially in the placing of images as well as the use of overlapping layers of large, shaped flaps and die-cuts. Features such as these make our discoveries as we follow the boy’s journey, all the more exciting. Then there are some touches of surrealism: that fish flying close to the boy’s home on the final spread for example; I’ll leave readers to discover others for themselves. The illustrations throughout are a delight, full of life and executed in a colour palette that enhances the mysterious fascination of the boy’s journey into the great unknown in this superb neo-fairytale.
Originally published in French, the story was translated by Daniel Hahn.