Author: Kevin Henkes
Genre: Children’s picture book
Date Read: Late 2016
Reading Challenge: 2016 Rejects Challenge
Challenge Prompt: A book that inspires you
“Today was a difficult day. Tomorrow will be better.”
Lilly loves her teacher and loves going to school. One day, she receives a new purple purse as a gift and is excited to bring it with her to school for Show and Tell. She is so preoccupied with her purse that she ends up unable to focus in class, and her teacher takes her purse away, causing Lilly to react in anger.
Why I Chose It:
I have always been a fan of Kevin Henkes’ books, especially Chester’s Way, the only one I owned. For years, my mom tried to convince me that I had read all of his books at some point, but I had no memory of the majority of them. I picked up this book one day while visiting the library, and only afterwards decided to apply it to my challenge. I ended up counting it as “a book that inspires me,” as silly as it may sound that a picture book inspired me, because of the quote I mentioned above.
*Sidenote: This book somehow is an example of the Mandela effect for me. I’ve always sworn the title was just Lilly’s Purple Purse, and only today when starting to write this post did I realize I was wrong.
I thought that this book was an excellent, very realistic children’s story. Kevin Henkes brilliantly captured the behaviour and feelings of a young character, especially with Lilly’s anger at her teacher for punishing her. The illustrations are simple but adorable, with all characters drawn as mice.
One of the elements I really appreciated about this book was the realistic relationship between Lilly and her teacher, Mr. Slinger. In many children’s books, adults are either scary or completely at the child’s whim. In this book, Lilly’s teacher was portrayed in a natural, balanced way. As a child, and even as an adult, readers empathize with Lilly’s anger over being punished, and may even relate to her decisions to act on her feelings. However, it is also clear that Mr. Slinger’s consequences are perfectly reasonable and fair, whether Lilly likes them or not.
What really made this book stand out to me, and the reason I chose it as a book that inspires me is one key quote: “Today was a difficult day. Tomorrow will be better.” Mr. Slinger wrote this in a note to Lilly, hidden in her purse when he returned it to her. I loved that the author chose to have Mr. Slinger take advantage of this learning opportunity — something I’m not sure many real teachers would do — and impart a valuable lesson to Lilly. While Lilly continued to act out after her purse was confiscated, Mr. Slinger chose to acknowledge that she was having a bad day, instead of reacting with anger and more punishments. I especially loved the optimistic message that even though one day is rough, the next will improve.
It takes a great children’s book to genuinely appeal to adult readers, and I have to say that I was thoroughly entertained and impressed by it. While I enjoy reading (or re-reading) children’s books sometimes, there are few that leave such a strong impression. I loved how Kevin Henkes told a story that would be so easy for children to relate to, and without sugar-coating his characters or their behaviour. I would highly recommend this book.
Ratings (10 point scale):
Overall Rating: 10