“You know as well as I do that lots and lots of parents divorce and move house. It’s very upsetting, but it’s not the end of the world.” (P.93)
No, it isn’t the end of the world, but it is like stepping into another world; at least it is for Andrea, lead character in Jacqueline Wilson’s The Suitcase Kid.
Ten years old, she’s gone from her happy life at Mulberry Cottage with just her mother and father, to having five new step-siblings and another on the way, two new step-parents, two new houses – but no where to really call home. There is nasty Katie, mad Zen and his twin Crystal, Paula and Graham, the baboon and Carrie – everything has changed. The only thing that has stayed the same for Andy is her treasured Sylvanian Rabbit, Radish – but even she falls victim to the aftershock.
Jacqueline Wilson tactfully guides us through Andy’s story with each chapter a consecutive letter of the alphabet, informing us of the smaller pieces of the puzzle that have since become warped or have changed significantly due to her parents split, and how they don’t quite fit back together.
Teachers are frustrated at her missing homework and books. No one makes allowances for the fact that she is being carted from one house to the other each week, and doesn’t know who she is let alone where her P.E. kit is! Her parents are more interested in point scoring than focusing on their daughter and her needs. Andy certainly feels the strain of her loss.
Here Wilson presents us with a ten-year-old child trying to negotiate huge changes; different routes home, alone, a loss of all the attention directed solely onto her, and a complete loss of routine. Things start to look up though, when she finds the ’empty’ cottage on Larkspur Lane.
True to form, Wilson is never unsympathetic, but she is not afraid to tell the story how it might really happen. Parents divorce, parents remarry, arguments get heated, the important things become suddenly unimportant. We do not live in a perfect world.
It is not realistic to imagine parents having a romantic last encounter and realising they don’t want to split up after all, but, for those of us from broken families, the dream never disappears.
A touching must-read for children 10-13.
Published 1992 / illustrations by Nick Sharratt
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