Skip to main content

Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes Children's Book Review

Carolyn worked as a technical writer, software user interface designer, and as a gig writer way before it was hip.

Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse book cover.

Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse book cover.

Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse Summary

The title character of Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes, like Ian Falconer's Olivia, is irrepressible, exuberant, confident, and theatrical. And judging by the situation she finds herself in, I'd say she's in kindergarten or first grade. Lilly loves school, idolizes her teacher, Mr. Slinger, and adores her brand new, purple plastic purse. After all, it holds her shiny quarters, movie star sunglasses, AND plays a "jaunty tune". That is, until Lilly's purse becomes such a distraction in the classroom that Mr. Slinger takes it away. Lilly is outraged by Mr. Slinger's "betrayal", which propels her to some pretty inappropriate reactions.

I enjoy this rich situational story that not only has a real plot with a person to person (or at least mouse to mouse) conflict, but it also shows Lilly's character growth, as she realizes with theatrical levels of guilt that she must apologize to her beloved teacher.

For children who haven't been exposed to a day care or classroom preschool environment, this book shows how a child learns to interact with an adult other than her parents in a primary school-aged classroom, specifically a school teacher, in a respectful manner. It is a great school-age story, with lovable and well-developed characters. Henkes is a pro at portraying the important role that school teachers play in the lives of young children.

This longer picture book is illustrated by Henkes in an almost pane-by-pane comic strip style. Instead of showing one illustration per page, you may find as many as 10 or 12 different, richly detailed illustrations per page. The illustrations are a strong addition to the magic of this book, with clever allusions for attentive adult readers.

This is a lengthy story for a picture book, and thus geared to school-aged readers. However, it is an enjoyable read, and a perfect extension of your read-aloud tradition with a young school-age child.


  • School
  • Sharing time
  • Misbehavior
  • Self-discipline
  • Situational
  • Teachers
  • Anger
  • Apology
  • Forgiveness
  • Purses

Reading Readiness With This Book


Not recommended for children under three. This book is long and complex--maybe a little too long for this age group. Probably fine for lap reading, but avoid using this as a toddler story time selection.

Scroll to Continue

Early Elementary Ages

This is a longer picture book, and its complex plot may not be appreciated by younger 4's. The text is broken up by multiple pictures per page, which makes this book read almost like a comic. Kevin Henkes' storytelling style doesn't hold back on the vocabulary, though the words in this story aren't nearly as complex as in his book, Chrysanthemum. However, you will encounter such words as interpretive dance, diva, surgeon, ambulance, glamorous, and encyclopedias. I believe this is a great book to read to 5-7 year-old children, but is a book to introduce to emergent readers for reading on their own after they have mastered the "sounding out" stages of learning to read.

Is This Book a Good Selection for Story Hour?

This book would be an excellent selection for a school-aged storytime crowd, but It is a longer story. If your storytime crowd is full of young preschoolers, I would make it a strong recommendation for parents to take home for reading time at home.

I DO recommend the story for its moral message, it's positive focus on relationships with teachers, and the innate readability of a Kevin Henkes gem. This book is similar in length and style to the Angelina Ballerina series of books by Katherine Holabird, and would be a great read-aloud addition to any home library.

This would be an excellent book to read in a primary-aged classroom during the beginning of the school year when you are discussing class rules.

© 2008 Carolyn Augustine


Carolyn Augustine (author) from Iowa on February 27, 2012:

Wow, I am so amazed. You know, there are over 40 of them! Happy reading!

Enlydia Listener from trailer in the country on February 26, 2012:

I am enjoying your reviews...and they are very helpful to me...thanks so much...I plan to read them all.

In The Doghouse from California on April 24, 2008:

Another great children's book review! Thanks.

Related Articles