Authors: Jacqueline Wilson
When my parents split up they didn't know what to do with meÂ .Â .Â .
My family always lived at Mulberry Cottage. Mum, Dad, me â and Radish, my lovable toy rabbit. But now Mum lives with Bill the Baboon and his three kids. Dad lives with Carrie and her twins. And where do I live? I live out of a suitcase. One week with Mum's new family, one week with Dad's.
It's as easy as A B C. That's what everyone says. But all I want is to go home â back to Mulberry CottageÂ .Â .Â .
An all-time Jacqueline Wilson favourite, now with an extra-special new introduction!
In memory of Hilda Ellen Smeed
I've had so many touching letters from children who identify with Andy in
The Suitcase Kid
. Many families split up nowadays, and it's often particularly difficult for the children. They don't just have to cope with Mum and Dad not living together any more. They often have to get along with new step parents, new siblings, new living arrangements. Some children cope right from the start. Other find it much more of a struggle.
Andy badly needs to hang onto Radish, her little lucky mascot rabbit. She's had her since she was a baby, and now she carries her everywhere, in her pocket, in her schoolbag, tucked into her hand at night. Radish is
little toy rabbit. She used to belong to my daughter Emma, but when she got too big to play with little bunnies she still didn't really want to throw her away. Radish had become very much part of our family so I happily adopted her. She stands on my desk and keeps me company when I write. Whenever I get stuck I play silly games with her. She rides on my computer mouse and slides down my paperweight. Sometimes I tie a big rubber band to the end of a gigantic jokey pencil and Radish practices her bungee jumping. (Authors are very good at wasting time when they get stuck!)
Radish now has her own little fan club. I frequently get letters sent to Ms Radish Wilson, and she gets numerous presents, miniature jewellery, pinafore
dresses, small Sylvanian friends. One Christmas I got sent a huge cardboard doll's house for Radish, complete with carefully constructed furniture in every room, even a little library with tiny books on each shelf, all written and illustrated in a miniature hand.
In the past, when I could answer all my letters properly, I used to draw Radish at the top of each letter, often with a special little message. I'd alter her outfit according to the seasons. In the spring she'd have an Easter bonnet (with special ear-holes) and have her arms stretched round a giant Easter egg. In summer she'd wear a stripy bikini and be clutching a bucket and spade in her paws. In autumn she'd wear a duffle coat and welly boots and be waving a sparkler. In winter she'd wear a red robe and a false white beard and play at being Santa Paws.
I decided to write
The Suitcase Kid
with a little chapter for every letter of the alphabet. This was fine at first, A is for Andy, B is for Bathroom, C is for Cottage â but I found it very difficult managing U and V and W and XYZ, especially as I wanted to round the story properly and give it a happy ending. I know a lot of children think the true happy ending would be Andy's parents getting back together again but I didn't want to do that. I didn't want to give any child reader false hopes. I wanted to show Andy gradually learning to accept the situation, making new friends, growing a little, getting everything under control â until everything really is as easy as ABC.
When my parents split up they didn't know what to do with me. My mum wanted me to go and live with her. My dad wanted me to go and live with him. I didn't want to go and live at my mum's new place or my dad's new place. I wanted to stay living in our
place, Mulberry Cottage, the three of us together. Four, counting my pet Sylvanian family spotted rabbit Radish.
There were all these arguments about who would get custody of me. I thought they were talking about custard at first. I hate custard because you can never tell when there's going to be a lump and it sticks in your throat and makes you shudder.
My mum got mad and my dad got mad and I got mad too. I felt
was being split up. Half of me wanted to side with Mum. Half of me wanted to side with Dad. It was much easier for Radish. She just sided with me. She lives in my pocket so there's never been any hassle over who gets custody of her.
We had to go for family counselling. It seemed a bit daft because my mum and dad didn't want to be a family any more. This lady chatted to me. She was trying to be ever so casual but I knew she was trying to suss things out. She had some little dolls in her office, a mummy doll and a daddy doll and a whole set of children dolls in different sizes. She wanted me to play with them. I poked the mummy doll and the daddy doll in the stomachs and said I didn't like playing with silly old dolls.
But this lady saw me fiddling about in my pocket and she got a glimpse of Radish. I like to hold her tight when I'm feeling funny.
âOh, what a dear little toy. Do let me have a look,' she said, in that silly voice grown-ups always use when they're trying to get you to like them.
âShe's not a toy, she's a mascot,' I said. I didn't want to show her Radish at all. She's mine and she's private. But I had to let this lady paw her about and undo her frock and turn her upside down in a very rude sort of way.
âWhat's Bunny's name?' she asked.
You'd have thought I was two years old, not ten. I just shrugged and shook my head.
âThat's Radish,' said Mum. âAndrea's had her for years and years. She's a very important member of our family.'
âActually, I bought Radish for Andrea. As a silly Saturday present. I like to give her a little treat every now and then,' said Dad.
âYou did not give Andrea Radish!
bought her one Christmas to go in Andrea's stocking,' said Mum.
âLook, I can vividly remember buying that rabbit in the corner shopâ'
âThey don't even sell Sylvanian families at the corner shop. I bought it from the toy shop in town andâ'
I snatched Radish back and put my hand gently over her ears. She can't stand to hear them arguing.
âNever mind,' said the lady, trying to shut them up. She was still smiling at Radish.
âHello, Radish,' she said, peering right into her little furry face.
I scowled at her. OK, Radish is real for me, but I can't stick it when grown-ups act like she's real too.
âI expect you're feeling a bit sad and worried about where you're going to live, little Radish,' said the lady.
Radish kept her lips buttoned.
âWe know what Mummy wants and we know what Daddy wants, but what do you want, Radish?' said the lady.
Radish wouldn't say a word.
âI think she's a bit shy,' said the lady. âMaybe it's hard to say anything in front of Mummy and Daddy.'
So she asked Mum and Dad to step outside the room for a few minutes. They didn't really want to. They both kept looking at me. You know what it's like at school when you're the team leader and everyone wants to be picked first to go in your team. Pick me, said Mum.
Pick me, said Dad. I stared down at Radish until they'd gone outside.
âPoor Radish. This is a bit tough on her, isn't it,' said the lady.
Radish and I stayed silent. The lady was quiet for a bit too. And Mum and Dad outside. I wondered if they were listening. But then they started up another argument. They whispered at first, but then got really cross and let rip.
âOh dear,' said the lady. âWell, Radish. Here's Mummy. And here's Daddy.' She propped these horrible dolls up at either end of her desk. Then she got some toy bricks and built a little house for the mummy doll and a little house for the daddy doll. She reached out and took Radish, putting her in the middle. Then she looked at me. âWhere does Radish want to live, Andrea? Does she want to live in House A?' She pointed to the mummy doll's house. âOr does she want to live in House B?' She pointed to the daddy doll's house.
âShe wants to live in House C. Mulberry Cottage, where we've always lived. With Mum and Dad and me,' I said.
âI know she does. But she can't. Not any more. It wouldn't work out. Just listen to Mum and Dad,' she said. They were shouting now.
âThey can't be happy living together. You can see that for yourself, can't you, Andrea? But they both love you very much and they want you to be happy. So which house do you think you and Radish would be happiest in? House A?' She pointed to the mummy doll's house again. âOr House B?' Daddy doll's turn.
I looked at House A. I looked at House B. I looked at Radish. I made her walk one way. I made her walk the other. I made her trek backwards and forwards across the desk.
âShe still wants to live in House C. But if she can't do that â and I still think she could â then she wants to live in House A
âAh,' said the lady. âYou mean she wants to live in House A one week and House B the next week?'