#15: Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes (1996)
78 points (12 votes, #8, #6, #3, #6, #1, #9, #4, #5, #1, #3, #6, #2)
There is nothing in the world that brings me more joy than smart, naughty children. And who doesn’t want to be as cool as Mr. Slinger?! – tdjaimes
Published when I was in college & made me want to have a career in kids lit – Emily Jones
One of the few kids’ books that really pulls off a depiction of a kid doing something wrong and being honestly, believably sorry. Combine that with cute mice, a groovy Birkenstock-wearing teacher, cheesy snacks, and of course Lilly her indefatigable self, and you’ve got a classic for the ages. – Els Kushner
Confession time. When I saw the staged production of three of the Lilly books performed at the Minneapolis Children’s Theatre and Lilly had to deal with the consequences of her actions in Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse I . . . I teared up. I did. I wept for Lilly. And I wept because of the reason Els Kushner just mentioned. Because somehow Kevin Henkes pulls off a kid feeling really really bad about doing something wrong. How do you tap into that feeling? Do we adults even remember what it’s like? We have this weird grown-up version of it, but child guilt is its own beast. Its own presence. And the guilt of a child will only resonate in our hardened little grown-up souls if the author working on us is particularly skilled. Henkes is.
The plot from my review: "Lilly is mightily pleased with her life at the moment. She loves school and she adores her teacher Mr. Slinger. Mr. Slinger (undoubtedly a relation of Miss Twinkle from Chrysanthemum) is the coolest prof in the world. He wears crazy colored ties, refers to his students as "rodents", provides yummy tasty snacks, and has a penchant for patterned shirts. Lilly is determined to someday be a teacher all thanks to Mr. Slinger. Unfortunately, Lilly’s Slinger-love takes a downward turn when she brings her new purple plastic purse to class. Noisily displaying it at an inappropriate time, Slinger confiscates the item until the end of the day. In anger, Lilly draws a mean portrait of her teacher and hides it in his book bag. But when the young girl opens her returned purse outside of school, she finds a note reading, "Today was a difficult day. Tomorrow will be better", and some yummy snacks are included. Suddenly wracked with guilt, Lilly decides to make up with her teacher and by the end the two have reconciled."
100 Best Books for Children says that at nineteen Henkes systematically looked at the publishers of his favorite picture books and chose the one he thought was the best. His choice? Greenwillow. The fellow has been there ever since.
As for Lilly, she may be the only character to show up on the Top 100 List twice. She already had her debut back at #83 in Chester’s Way. Now she’s doing a tap dance at #15, and doing it well.
Publishers Weekly said of it, "The author/artist offers useful, timeless advice for apologizing to a friend and resolving a conflict. A sympathetic and wise treatment."
School Library Journal said, "Clever dialogue and other funny details will keep readers looking and laughing. As the cover and end papers attest, Lilly emerges once again a star."
The New York Times said, "Mr. Henkes manages to convey the depth of Lilly’s emotions in illustrations that are pure delight."
You may read some of it here:
Previous Top 100 Picture Book Posts include: