Name of Book: Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse
Author: Kevin Henkes
Illustrator: Kevin Henkes
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Audience: The intended audience for this book is ages 4-8, but it may easily be used in a multi-age children’s classroom, or in an intergenerational setting, due to its humor and universal themes.
Summary: When Lilly brings her new purse, glasses, and shiny quarters to school, she cannot restrain herself from interrupting her teacher’s lesson. When Mr. Slinger takes the purse away until the end of the day, Lilly responds by giving him an angry note. However, in a note of his own, Mr. Slinger acknowledges her bad day and holds no grudge. Having received this gracious note, Lilly sets out to make things right with Mr. Slinger once again.
Literary elements at work in the story: Henkes creates memorable and humorous characters in the familiar setting of a school classroom. Lilly’s character is well-developed, which serves to bring believability to the central conflict of Lilly having disappointed herself and her teacher. In the midst of this conflict, Henkes explores themes centered on the pain that comes from disappointing someone you love, and the delight in being restored to a right relationship. The illustrations throughout depict deeper emotional content and humor than in the text alone.
Perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability: Henkes uses mice of many colors to tell Lilly’s story. While Lilly is clearly a white mouse, her teacher is gray and her friends are brown, white, gray and tan. Readers are certainly able to find themselves in this eclectic assortment of mice. Throughout the story, as well, Henkes includes in his illustrations pictures and symbols of global peace, personal achievement, and a celebration of learning. Mr. Slinger is seen teaching about “the global village,” he designates a space in the classroom as the “light-bulb lab” for the students’ “great ideas,” and the community of eclectic and diverse little mice is shown with great joy.
Theological Conversation Partners: This book provides an excellent entry point for discussions about repentance and forgiveness within relationship. When Lilly wrongs her teacher, she moves from wanting to seek vengeance for the consequences she receives, to feeling a great sense of regret. When Mr. Slinger accepts Lilly’s apology, he and Lilly are restored to a right relationship with one another. Potential partner scriptures: Genesis 45:1-15; Luke 15:11-32; Matthew 18:21-23; I Samuel 26.
Faith Talk Questions:
- Think about a time when you did something wrong. How did you feel? What did you do when you realized you did something wrong? How did you feel after youapologized/resolved the issue?
- When Lilly does not follow the rules, Mr. Slinger takes away her purse. How did Lilly respond? Do you think she is right to be so angry at him?
- Lilly discovers that Mr. Slinger does not hold a grudge for her poor behavior. How does Mr. Slinger’s kindness help Lilly to want to apologize. (Older children may want to consider how this relates to grace.)
- How do we know that Lilly feels bad for what she has done? How does she apologize/repent?
- Explore the concept of restoration – of making things right. Example: Build block towers, knock them down, and then restore them. Or, tear a picture apart, and then tape it together to restore it.
- In what ways are Lilly and Mr. Slinger shown to be restored to one another? What is the result of this restoration for both of them?
- How is Lilly’s story similar to or different from today’s story from the Bible?
- When we do something wrong, what do you think God wants us to do?
This post was written by Union Presbyterian Seminary student Catherine Lovejoy.