Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse
written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes
original copyright 1996
recommended age level - 4-8
Circle Time rating
ISBN 0688128971 hard cover
ISBN 068812898X library binding
Tromping around in her red cowboy boots, Lilly is a mouse after my own heart because she is so human! Instead of being a cardboard character, Lilly has real feelings -- she worships her teacher, gets furious with him, gets even, then feels mortified to learn he's not so bad after all, and finally, learns to forgive and ask for forgiveness herself.
Lilly loved everything about school -- the pointy pencils, the squeaky chalk, and her teacher, Mr. Slinger. He's the type of teacher every child needs at least once:
Instead of "Greetings, students" or "Good morning, pupils," Mr. Slinger winked and said, "Howdy!"
He thought that desks in rows were old-fashioned and boring. "Do you rodents think you can handle a semicircle?"
Lilly was so fond of Mr. Slinger that she wanted to be a teacher when she grew up. She practiced teaching her baby brother at home. At school, during free time, Lilly drew pictures and wrote stories about Mr. Slinger.
Everything was wonderful until one Monday morning when Lilly came to school with some goodies she had gotten over the weekend: a pair of movie star sunglasses, three shiny quarters, and a "brand new purple plastic purse that played a jaunty tune when it was opened." She was so proud of her loot, and so crushed when Mr. Slinger put it all in his desk for safekeeping after she had disrupted school by showing it off in the middle of class.
At free time, an irate Lilly drew a picture of "Big Fat Mean Mr. Stealing Teacher" and slipped it into Mr. Slinger's book bag. Later, after school was over and Mr. Slinger returned her stuff, Lilly was mortified to find a sweet note he had slipped into her purse, "Today was a difficult day Tomorrow will be better."
Lilly went home and wrote a new story about how "Lilly was really really sorry. So everyone forgave her. . . .Even her especially incredible teacher." She drew a new picture of a smiling, forgiving Mr. Slinger. Her mom wrote Mr. Slinger a note. Her dad baked him no-frills cheese balls.
It could have been the new story, the note, or the cheese balls that earned Lilly Mr. Slinger's forgiveness, but I think it was Lilly's heartfelt apology (with eighteen "really"s before the "sorry").
Just looking at Lilly reminds me of my daughter at her age -- even down to the red cowboy boots! My daughter also writes stories (but her spelling is more creative than Lilly's), and she dances around with new and exciting trifles with all of Lilly's exuberance. She even does some things in the heat of the moment that she regrets later. Thanks to Lilly, she knows she's not the only one.
Kevin Henkes' drawings of Lilly, Mr. Slinger, and the rest of the characters are so expressive that my kids can sit down with this book and "read" it to themselves. I especial love the way Lilly changes when she finds the note from Mr. Slinger: her eyes widen, and she grows smaller and smaller.
Top of Page -- This Review Copyright © 1998 by Kathy Bennett (firstname.lastname@example.org)