Inside the Suitcase

Inside the Suitcase
Clotilde Perrin
Gecko Press

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.

The House of Madame M

The House of Madame M
Clotilde Perrin (translated by Daniel Hann)
Gecko Press

Following on from Clotilde Perrin’s super-sized Inside the Villains comes another large format lift-the-flap picture book.
Once again this one immediately snares the reader’s attention as they’re invited to enter and explore the residence of Madame B by an extremely strange-looking being.

Enter if you dare for she doesn’t, so we’re told, live alone in this strange house. There too dwell creepy creatures aplenty, hiding in unexpected places to fill you with the frights.

As you peek inside each room you’ll likely be brushed by cobwebs, scuttled over by spiders, grimaced at by alarming monsters and your nostrils will be assaulted by smells of mould and decay; you’ll feel icy winds and hear creaks as you open doors, lift flaps, and come upon jokes of the weirdest kinds.

Hilariously creepy details abound – lurking in the cupboards, in the pots and pans, even beneath the loo seat, in this veritable treasure trove of frights and giggles for chilly nights.

Assuredly a book to relish far beyond the night of Halloween; this is one to enjoy snuggled in a warm place with a comforting hot chocolate and cosy slippers.

I still have a much treasured copy of Jan Pieńkowski’s awesome Haunted House on my shelves. This slightly more macabre offering will sit alongside it as a 21st century complement.

Inside the Villains

Inside the Villains
Clotilde Perrin
Gecko Press

Wow! This is a BIG book; it’s also a pop-up, lift-the-flap, pull-the-tab volume wherein we meet three of the biggest villains of fairy tale.

If you’ve ever wondered what really lies behind the three characters, this larger-than-life volume supplies the information. It takes readers deep within and around on a tour of discovery that reveals what’s hidden beneath their clothing, what lurks in their pockets and even behind their ears; and be prepared for a peep at stomach contents.

Each character is immaculately constructed with layers to peel back and investigate. For instance in the wolf (my favourite) we’re shown the working of his grey matter and when you pull a tiny thread, the contents of his stomach – see if you can guess what lies therein – the creature’s been pretty busy of late; either that or he digests his food very slowly.
On the opposite page is a self-written profile of the lupine creature wherein he recounts his dietary preferences and describes himself as having ‘highly developed intelligence, natural cunning and exceptional athletic gifts.’

Unfold the left-hand page and you’ll discover a terrific ‘More About Me’ section with story references aplenty as well as a list of other related tales. Opposite all this is the story of The wolf and the seven little goats.

The giant clearly has several layers of adipose tissue – not surprising as he talks of his ‘insatiable appetite’. Beware his beguiling banter “I’m opening my heart to you’. Hmm! Unfasten his belt and take a look beneath that waistcoat, then have a peek behind his hat.

As for the witch, she sports a feathery cape, perfect for ensuring that the contents of her pocket stays toasty warm. Under her dress and petticoat she has a stash of terrible treasures, so ignore what she says about those pockets full of sweets, if you value your life, her gnashers look evil indeed.
Her hidden story is Alyoshka and Baba Yaga.

Brilliantly conceived and equally brilliantly constructed, Clotilde Perrin takes interactive novelty books to a whole new level.