Kevin Henkes' Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse
Children's book review by Steve Barancik
A girl's book about feelings
Little girls love Lilly. Kevin Henkes' little white mouse has real highs and real lows.
Lilly is loving school. She loves everything about it, but most of all her teacher, Mr. Slinger. He's cooler than the other teachers, and I think it's fair to say that Lilly has a bit of a crush on him. She features him in her art projects, and suddenly she wants to be a teacher too when she grows up.
Could things get better? They could! Over the weekend, Lilly's Grammy gives her some movie star sunglasses, three shiny, jangly quarters, and a purple plastic purse. It even plays a tune when you open it!
She can barely contain herself at school because of her new possessions. Lilly wants everyone to know about the wonders of Lilly's purple plastic purse. However, she fails to realize she's starting to distract the class and disturb Mr. Slinger.
He takes her precious things from her for the rest of the school day.
Well, no fury like a little mouse scorned! Lilly works herself into a snit over the affront. Eager to punish Mr. Slinger, she slips an insulting piece of artwork into his book bag before the teacher can give her her things back at the end of the day.
She gives him a little lip and then leaves. Then, on the way home, she opens her purse. There's a nice note from Mr. Slinger as well as a treat.
Lilly feels about this big.
One reason parents love Lilly is because this little mouse has a conscience. Lilly frets and frets some more about facing Mr. Slinger the next day. She doesn't fear anger. She fears not being forgiven. And so she endeavors to make it up to Mr. Slinger by writing a nice little book about him.
Of course, she needn't have worried. Mr. Slinger agrees to forget the mean picture and then lets Lilly do a major Show and Tell about quarters, purses, and sunglasses.
Lilly feels great again, having done the right thing after doing the wrong one. (I told you: parents love Lilly.) And Henkes even makes sure that we know, at the end, that Lilly comes out of the whole experience with a healthy respect for Mr. Slinger, rather than a not-so-healthy schoolgirl crush.
Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse
Henkes, a two time Caldecott honoree, works magic with watercolors and a black pen. The emotions of all the characters are depicted with stunning precision despite their simple faces.
Lilly has much to teach any child, but girls will probably be more receptive.
Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse is Lilly's third appearance in a Henkes book, after Chester's Way and Julius, the Baby of the World. This book has also been packaged with a follow-up, Lilly's Big Day, in A Box Full of Lilly.
(There's a Lilly board book, too: Lilly's Chocolate Heart.)
Lilly models real emotions and ethical behavior. That makes her a star in my book.
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