This is another heartfelt multicultural story – this time about the universal experience of dealing with the loss of a beloved grandparent. It is the author, Meera Sriram’s, debut picture book in the United States. It is also illustrator Meera Sethi’s debut picture book.
The Publisher’s description: “In The Yellow Suitcase by Meera Sriram, Asha travels with her parents from America to India to mourn her grandmother’s passing. Asha’s grief and anger are compounded by the empty yellow suitcase usually reserved for gifts to and from Grandma, but when she discovers a gift left behind just for her, Asha realizes that the memory of her grandmother will live on inside her, no matter where she lives.”
The Yellow Suitcase begins so artfully – we are immediately immersed in the main character Asha’s visit to India. We understand that this is not her home, but it’s not her first visit either. The next spread is heart breaking in its honest simplicity. The child looks for her grandmother, who isn’t there. The illustration simply shows and empty chair and empty shoes. We feel the loss.
This story is simultaneously simple to understand and deep in its portrayal of the child’s experience with loss – the sadness and the questions, the anger, the longing for the familiar. I could definitely relate to Asha’s experience of going back to India for a grandparent’s funeral. We returned to the United States from Peru for my grandfather’s funeral when I was nine. The ending of the story is also touching – Grandmother’s gift to Asha is thoughtful and speaks volumes about the strength of the long-distance relationship they had.
I love how the illustrations have a bold and colorful Indian style, and how they convey the emotion of the story. I especially liked the illustration with Asha looking at her grandmother’s portrait, her own body posture mirroring her grandmother’s pose in the portrait, and the one where Asha hides under her blue blanket – the waves of sorrow threatening to engulf her.
I think this book would be a treasure for any family dealing with the loss of a cherished relative – cross-cultural or not.