Q&A with the Creator of Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse
by Alexie Basil
You might think the creator of a teacher character as timeless and self-assured as Mr. Slinger would really appreciate teachers…and you’d be right!
Check out this exclusive Q&A with the great Kevin Henkes to discover what teacher from his own life inspired Mr. Slinger, as well as why he thinks it’s important to celebrate our educators every day.
What makes Mr. Slinger such a great teacher?
Mr. Slinger understands children. He understands temperament. He knows what might work for one student might not work for every student. And I think he loves his job.
Was Mr. Slinger inspired by a teacher you had growing up? How did you come up with Mr. Slinger’s look?
Mr. Slinger is a composite of a few teachers I knew. But his look was inspired by a friend who is a teacher.
Why is it important to celebrate teachers?
Teachers are some of the most important people in our communities. They play such a vital role in our children’s lives. And yet they are often so undervalued, particularly by our lawmakers. They deserve all the celebrating in the world.
How is Lilly relatable? What can students take away from this book?
I hope that readers and listeners relate to Lilly. She is open, impulsive, eager, joyful. She also makes mistakes. She is like a lot of us. After reading my book, I hope kids will understand that making a mistake is not the end of the world. As Mr. Slinger says, “Today was a difficult day. Tomorrow will be better.”
How do the colors in your illustrations add to Lilly’s world?
I used many colors in Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse. The colors set the tone for the book. Like Lilly, they are bright and bold and lively. I tried to complement her personality.
Kevin Henkes grew up loving books and loving to draw and paint. He published his first book, All Alone, in 1981. In 1986, Kevin’s picture book portfolio blossomed thanks to the birth of some little mice in A Weekend with Wendell. Sixteen books featuring a parade of dynamic and unforgettable mouse characters have followed, including the 1994 Caldecott Honor book Owen, and the most famous of them all, Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse. His newest mouse character, Penny, stars in a series for beginning readers that includes Penny and Her Song, Penny and Her Doll, and Penny and Her Marble. In 2005, he won the Caldecott Medal for Kitten’s First Full Moon. In addition to his picture books, Kevin has also published 12 middle grade novels, including the Newbery Medal winners The Year of Billy Miller and Olive’s Ocean. Kevin lives with his family in Wisconsin.
This Book Is Available from Scholastic Book Clubs