Polly Mae

The Old Suitcase

Children - Adventure
120 Pages
Reviewed on 02/10/2017
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

Julie Hodgson is the author of many books for children - both novels and picture books. Julie has traveled all over the world as a children's writer and storyteller

Julie travels around Europe and further afield, where she is always on tour with her promotion of reading to children and visiting numerous schools.
She speaks 3 languages, which aids her in communication with children from all walks of life.

She has recently won the Readers Favorite International book awards and headed off to Miami in November last year (2016)

And also the Wishing Shelf book awards has been placed as a finalist.

Her motto is, “Always be the very best you can be”.

She donates most of her proceeds to charities.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite

Polly Mae: The Old Suitcase is an historical adventure novel for children and preteens written by Julie Hodgson. Polly Mae was in trouble -- again -- for pulling that old cat's tail. She wasn't trying to hurt Mrs. Donkin's cat, but it was constantly getting in her way. This time, he had been sitting on the tree she was planning to climb, so it was natural that she'd want him to leave. Mrs. Donkin had an evil reputation with all the kids in the neighborhood, but she especially enjoyed complaining about and tormenting Polly Mae, who, unfortunately, lived next door. Polly Mae sat upstairs in her bedroom and watched Mrs. Donkin as she gesticulated and complained to Polly's mom. She had been banished to her room until teatime, but Polly Mae knew that a sunny, warm day was not something you wasted. And she had a special way of escaping without notice all planned. Moving her collection of keepsakes from the windowsill, she carefully climbed out of the window and slid down the drainpipe. She headed for the beach, which had any number of perfect places for hiding out when you should be in your bedroom. Her best friend, William, was out there as well. He suggested they look for treasure, which made Polly Mae laugh. Treasure? Here? The two walked along until they reached the old, abandoned ice cream shack, which was a lot of fun to explore in a creepy sort of way. Following a strange, scratching noise, Polly discovered a hole in the wall and starting pulling out all manner of discarded objects from the past; then she felt a handle, and, pulling hard, retrieved an old and dusty locked suitcase. They had found treasure after all.

Julie Hodgson's historical adventure novel for children and preteens, Polly Mae: The Old Suitcase, stars a most intriguing preteen character who climbs trees and drainpipes with ease and has no qualms about reaching deep into spaces between the walls in an abandoned, spooky building in her search for treasure. I loved following Polly Mae as she’s guided by her irrepressible curiosity and discovers a window into the past. Hodgson's story shares the plight of those displaced by the Holocaust and Nazi Germany's invasion of Poland with young readers in an original and effective way as Polly and her father use the contents of the suitcase to track down and unite a family separated during the war. Along the way, readers get to share in a most marvelous road trip with Polly and her dad, complete with strawberry milkshakes, and an exciting visit to Poland. I had a grand time reading Polly Mae: The Old Suitcase and most highly recommend it as a rousing action and adventure novel that educates as it entertains.

Gisela Dixon

Polly Mae: The Old Suitcase by Julie Hodgson is a children’s book that discusses the very serious subject of the Nazi Holocaust in a way that is both educational and engaging. Polly Mae: The Old Suitcase begins with a fun and mischievous introduction to 11-year-old Polly Mae as she is scolded by her neighbor for pulling the cat’s tail. As a result, Polly Mae is sent to her room, but she escapes and runs to the beach with her friend, William. This is when the real adventure starts as the kids come across an old suitcase, hidden in an abandoned cabin, that reveals many old letters, things, etc. from the Nazi and World War II era. As the search begins to locate these people from the past, we learn about old family histories of Polish citizens who fled the country under Nazi occupation, the terror and the anti-Semitic sentiment that ran across Europe, and of course how World War II changed the world irrevocably as a result of racial and religious hatred.

Polly Mae is a thought-provoking book for children, and the Nazi history, as told via the eyes of people who have lived through it, makes it very real and authentic. At the same time, the tone of the book is not overwhelmingly heavy and is still light enough to make it understandable and educational for young children. I found the plot of the book to be engaging and especially liked Polly Mae’s character, which is portrayed as fun, mischievous, and yet kind and mature when the occasion calls for it. The illustrations in the book are colorful and cute and complement the story very well. All in all, this is a great read and I would highly recommend it.

Lisa McCombs

Polly Mae just cannot seem to keep her hands off the neighbor’s cat. Mrs. Donkin complains often to Polly Mae’s mother that Polly Mae is a hazard to the poor feline. Polly Mae sees it as a challenge, though. She is not really harming the cat, right? When she is not sparring with Mrs. Donkin’s pet, Polly Mae spends as much time as possible with her best friend, William. Their favorite pastime? Seeking adventure. During a spur of the moment treasure hunt, the two youngsters happen upon a hidden suitcase that Polly Mae has to smuggle into her room, away from her mother’s prying eyes. But the contents are too incredible to keep secret for long.

Polly Mae: The Old Suitcase by Julie Hodgson, set in Poland, is a delightfully told story on an equally horrid time in European history. An instructional lesson on the emotions associated with post-World War II Holocaust survivors could be a welcome addition to any grade school or middle school classroom studying this time in history. The vocabulary glossary and the statistics page at the end of the novel are a wonderful addition, especially for instructional use for either history or literature class. Hodgson’s approach to this horrible time in history provides a compassionate, honest look through the eyes of the innocent. The passages told from the perspective of Holocaust survivors are vivid, emotional, and totally realistic. I know from personal experience in the classroom that students are intrigued (and horrified) by this time in history.

Romuald Dzemo

Mrs. Donkin — a virago sort of woman, well-described as the real joy spoiler for eleven-year-olds, a woman considered by Polly to have “a University Degree in complaining” — has been Polly’s worry over touching the tail of her cat. And she has to touch the cat’s tail because it is sitting on the same tree she wants to climb on. Grounded and compelled to remain in her room, Polly Mae finds an escape through the drainpipe and meets her friend, William. It is at the beach that they find an old suitcase that will ignite the adventure of a lifetime. As if the suitcase contained the history mankind would want to put behind it, Polly is pulled back in time to relive the horrors of Polish history and the gory experience of the Nazi occupation. Polly Mae: The Old Suitcase by Julie Hodgson features very compelling characters, captivating historical references, and a plot that is as gripping as it is thought-provoking.

Polly Mae: The Old Suitcase by Julie Hodgson is an enjoyable read. The narrative voice is beautiful, clear, and strong. It is humorous and the reader immediately feels absorbed by the perspective of the young protagonist. Although Polly goes through gruesome experiences, the sense of humor, the weirdness in her way of thinking is beautifully captured in compelling descriptions. The plot is fast-paced and gripping. Right from the moment the story begins, the reader expects something to happen, but the author is very creative and makes it feel like it is something that will happen to the cat. A lot can be said about this book, from the great art of storytelling, to the compelling story, to the great literary elements like suspense, contrast, and humor that punctuate the story.

Arya Fomonyuy

Julie Hodgson’s Polly Mae: The Old Suitcase is a gripping narrative for children, a work with compelling themes. What does it feel like to relive history, the dark side of history, to be transported into the past? When Polly escapes her room, it’s more in disgust of her experience of the unfriendly Mrs. Donkin than for sheer adventure. She meets her friend, William, by the beach and an old suitcase mysteriously takes her on an adventure into the horrors of history. Watch her as she relives trying experiences in the time of the Nazi occupation in Poland. Does she have the courage to face this nightmare and can she come out without bruises on her personality?

This is listed as a children’s book, but the story will have a great impact on adults. Readers will feel entertained and amused at the way teenagers look at adults who don’t seem to understand their world. The story begins with conflict. The protagonist feels unfairly treated by an intolerant, inconsiderate, and rude woman who will do anything to kill the thrill of life in kids (just because of a cat.) The world Julie Hodgson paints is one that many kids will relate to and one that will remind many adult readers of the children they once were. The writing flows beautifully and the narrative voice is unique and jovial. The author combines elements of suspense and humor to keep readers engaged throughout. The historical references are powerful and young readers will be utterly absorbed. This was a very entertaining and satisfying read, one of the books I’d recommend for its great themes and strong storyline.