We (my wife Amy, an illustrator, and I) created Molly and the Magic Suitcase in March of 2012. The inspiration came from our daughter Molly. She was just over a year old then. Here is a picture of the moment:
Well, the photo on the left (on the screen) is of that moment. Apparently I need to retrieve the actual photo from our archive, sorry! This is the brief story:
Molly crawled into my suitcase and I said, “Look! It’s Molly and her magic suitcase!”
Amy stopped what she was doing and said, “That’s it.”
“That’s what we’ve been looking for,” she said.
Amy and I discussed what Molly and the Magic Suitcase would be for six months before we started work on Molly Goes to Rome. The books are many things at once:
- Each book is a story of curiosity and discovery. Our goal is for the readers to learn something without realizing they’re learning. Molly and Michael, our main characters (and our actual, real-life children) have a magic suitcase; they can go anywhere! But you need a reason to go. The reason is different in each book and it is the basis for the story.
- Tour from Kids’ Point of View
- We discover these things through interviews with people who are either from the place or have traveled there numerous times, often with children.
- When possible, we draw on personal experience. When I traveled to Rome, there was a good place for gelato in the Piazza Navona. It is still there!
- Cultural Guide
- Each book contains language, food, and games. Some of these are unique to the country or region. In Thailand, our sources told us about sepak takraw, a mix of soccer, volleyball, and badminton. It is easy to find on the internet. Likewise, we learned of the game elastico while researching the Rome book. This is a game prevalent among children in parts of Europe, yet there is little reference to it online. Occasionally, our cultural references extend to dance (Barcelona, Puerto Rico) and music, particularly instruments (Peru, Shanghai). Finally, whenever possible we feature traditional clothing.
- Travel Preparation
- We talked about how much more excited young travelers are when they know something about where they’re going. When you’ve read something about Old San Juan in Puerto Rico, seeing it becomes a fuller experience.
- I remember being on a tour of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. when I was nine years old. The tour guide pointed to a huge painting and asked if anyone knew what it was from. No one said anything and I raised my hand. “It’s on the back of the two-dollar bill!” A thrilling moment, though I was so embarrassed after I said it, I didn’t hear anything the guide said for the next five minutes. This is what I mean by a “fuller experience.”
This last reason, preparation for travel, was nothing new. For example, cruise ships offer destination “immersion” sessions prior to going ashore. Our books are immersion for young travelers, and it is part of the reason our books are part of children’s programming in a major cruise line.
There you have it. For more information, feel free to head to the Molly and the Magic Suitcase website.