Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Lily's Purple Plastic Purse......

Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes

     I recently came across a copy of Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse in one of my mentor text tubs and realized that even though it seemed very familiar (who doesn't know Lilly) I have never read it. Since one of my all time favorite picture books is Julius, Baby of the World, which also stars Lilly, I decided to read it.

    The story is simple enough--Lilly loves school. She loves everything about it. The supplies, her desk, the lunch "And, most of all, she loves her teacher, Mr. Slinger." That is until the day that she brings her new movie star glasses, three shiny quarters, and purple plastic purse to school. Lilly is unable to wait to show her prizes to her classmates so Mr. Slinger ends up taking them and putting them away. Lilly is crushed, so she turns her anger on Mr. Slinger by drawing an ugly picture of him at the "Lightbulb Lab" and slipping it into his book bag. On her way home she discovers that Mr. Slinger has also slipped a note into her purse that simple states "Today was a difficult day. Tomorrow will be better." Lilly knows that she has to make amends and returns to school the next day determined to make things better.

    I am glad that I read this book as a primary teacher instead of while I was teaching in fifth grade. It would not have had as much meaning to me at that point in my career. Kevin Henkes describes Lilly as "Exuberant" which is the way many of my young students feel about their first years in school. They LOVE everything about school, especially you. They want to be a teacher just like you, they want to sit next to you, they draw you beautiful pictures of their devotion, until the day you have to correct them or even worse take away their prized toy. There's nothing worse than the crushed face of a seven year old that has lost faith in you. As a teacher you have to let the child know that some days are tough, but the next day you get to hit the "reset" button. Mr. Slinger does it beautifully!
     As a teacher I live this story every day, but wondered how Kevin Henkes got this idea for it. On his web site, he talks about being at an airport and observing a young girl with a purse driving her father crazy. At that point he didn't have his own children, and he naively found the situation quite comical. He also shares how he had some wonderful teachers that supported him and helped him reach his dream of being a author and illustrator. I love how he combined two very different things to create one great story.  I plan on using his Meet Kevin Henkes video with my students so they can better understand that authors use things in their everyday life for writing material.

     Kevin Henkes' illustrations do a fabulous job supporting and extending the story. The book starts with purple end pages with white stars because Lilly loves purple and she's a STAR! Inside the story he moves back and forth between cameos that give you the feeling of being a part of the story (such as the pictures of all the things that make Mr. Slinger a extra cool teacher) and framed illustration that make you more of an observer of the story (pictures of Mr. Slinger teaching and Lilly pretending to be the teacher at home with Julius). I especially love the illustrations that he does in sequence that help you "feel" her energy and joy.   


Later in the story he uses nine framed illustration in sequence so that you can see and feel Lilly's disappointment and anger develop over time. I especially love the "crazy" eyes and the idea "light bulb" that help get the point across. One of the best lines in the story, "Instead of watching her favorite cartoons, Lilly decided to sit in the uncooperative chair" is given extra meaning with a series of illustrations of Lilly fretting in the infamous uncooperative chair. I really enjoy the simplicity of his art work, it reflects how things are so black and white for young children. On one of his web videos he describes and demonstrates how he moves from pencil drawings to pen and ink to finally adding color with paint. You actually get to see him create Lilly!

    This is a must read for every class room. It lets children know in very simple terms that it's okay to make mistakes, because there is always a second chance.


ALA Notable Children’s Book
Booklist Editors’ Choice
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books Blue Ribbon
Horn Book Fanfare
Publishers Weekly Best Book
School Library Journal Best Book
New York Public Library’s 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing
IRA Children’s Choice
American Booksellers Book of the Year Award
American Booksellers Association “Pick of the Lists”
Children’s Literature Choice List
California Great Reads Award
Zena Sutherland Award (Chicago, IL)

1 comment:

  1. I agree, this is a wonderful book! I enjoyed reading your review about it!