Tag Archives: kevin henkes

Living In Literature: Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse

Whether it’s for home decor ideas or a bright spot of color in my morning, the one blog I turn to almost daily is Design*Sponge.  And there’s no column on the website that I look forward to more than Amy Merrick‘s “Living In” (whose 1-year anniversary is today)!

Amy perfectly captures the atmosphere of all my favorite movies, and I love the idea of gaining inspiration from a story long after it ends.  While movies have more than enough visual material for products, fashion and interior design, I’m left wondering how the same exercise could be applied to other mediums, such as . . . books!

Children’s literature is remarkable because it sparks the imagination, bringing fantastic elements into the context of daily reality.  The worlds created within kids’ books can be complex with ideas, but ultimately have to be simple and tangible enough for a child to understand.

It is with this thought in mind that I bring an homage to Design*Sponge with “Living In Literature”!  I’ll showcase children’s and YA books whose characters, themes and environments can be translated to a set of products, so both you – and the little ones in your life – can carry the spirit of the book once you’ve closed its pages.


I think there’s no better way to kick off “Living In Literature” than with my favorite children’s book heroine to be inspired by: Lilly from Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse, by Kevin Henkes.  Lilly has the kind of impulsive self-assurance that we often lose with age.  Even though she may not always be right, she learns a lesson in humility without losing her enthusiasm.  She’s a perfect personality to channel when you need a little burst of confidence.

For you:

list notepad $7, crown charm $52, purple purse $995 (a girl can dream…), knit dress $16, movie star sunglasses $13, yellow headbands $10 ea, Make A Wish bouquet $35, swiss cheeses $15-31/lb, star button necklace $25, lunch tote $22, red cowboy boots $327, cowboy rain boots $68

For the kids:

floral print dress $8, movie star sunglasses $5, lace mouse ears $35, purple plastic purse $7, star mirror decals $13, plush mouse toy $13, blue tiered skirt $30, bean bag chair $30, crown baby hat $20, fringe cowboy boots $25

Now, on those days when it would feel great to shout,

“I am Lilly!  I am the Queen!

I like everything!”

. . . grab some red boots or movie star sunglasses, and go take over the world!

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It’s Not As Simple As It Seems – Part II

Thinking about Neal Hagberg‘s commitment to addressing social issues in his songs, it got me to thinking about what I could do to incorporate important themes into my own children’s books. Since I don’t have a second senior project lined up yet (think… think…), this could be a perfect opportunity to create something that is meaningful to me, and could speak to others as well.

I’ve mentioned before that I remain VERY skeptical of the use of biblio-therapy. I fear that basing a children’s book around a “moral” or lesson could lead to a preachy tale that hits the reader over the head – I’d rather see books as a form of escapism or entertainment.

However, when I thought about it, some of the best books speak to greater issues, teaching children (and adults!) while still being beautiful and expressive in themselves.  Here’s my top five:

1.  Religious Tolerance: The Trees of the Dancing Goats by Patricia Polacco (Simon & Schuster, 1996).  When scarlet fever falls on Trisha’s Christian neighbors, her Russian Jewish family prepares a celebration for them, complete with latke dinners and Christmas trees.

Roy and Silo (photo credit and full article)

2.  HomosexualityAnd Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, illustrated by Henry Cole (Simon & Schuster, 2005).  This is a story about a REAL gay penguin family in the Central Park Zoo!  I still can’t believe that this adorable story of nurturing is on banned books lists all over.

“We wrote the book to help parents teach children about same-sex parent families.  It’s no more an argument in favor of human gay relationships than it is a call for children to swallow their fish whole or sleep on rocks.” – Justin Richardson, to the New York Times

3.  Death of a ChildThe Purple Balloon by Chris Raschka (Schwartz & Wade, 2007).  This is the most beautiful book on death I’ve ever seen, using the imagery that terminally ill children express in art therapy of a floating purple or blue balloon.

4.  BullyingChrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes (Greenwillow Books, 1991).  Unusual children (ahem… like myself) need to grow up with this book of standing out and being “absolutely perfect” even if you’re different.

5.  CharityThe Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister Herbert (North-South Books, 1995).  Today’s society needs this book to learn how to share a bit.  (Note: when I was looking it up on Amazon, there was a comment about this book being “socialist propaganda”.  Case in point).

Can a children’s book make a difference (or make a point) in the world?  These five did it.  But can – or should – I?  I’m going to find out.

– ABE