David Almond on a brilliant book that is impossible to describe…
The first time I finished reading Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse to my daughter, we went straight back to the start and read it again and we enjoyed it even more. Since then, I must have read it twenty times and it continues to be funny, touching and true. Lilly might look like a mouse, but she perfectly embodies the passions, joys, shames, delights and despairs of childhood. Her relationships – with her family and her school mates, and especially with her artistic and eccentric teacher, Mr Slinger – are lightly sketched and totally convincing. The devastating impact of the plastic purse and its contents is absolutely believable. We’re given Lilly’s whole world – with its pointy chalk, its snacks, Mr Slinger’s ties, its film star sunglasses, its jingly coins, its lightbulb lab, its lurching stomach, its uncooperative chair, its interpretive dance – and the whole thing is a delight. The book even contains a book-within-a-book written by Lilly herself. Lovely rhythmical writing, sharp and affecting illustrations. Like all brilliant books, Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse is impossible to describe.
The thing to do is to read and look at the book itself. Then, like Lilly and Mr Slinger and her mates, you’ll say, ‘Wow.’ It’s just about all you could say. ‘Wow.’ Truly a little masterpiece from the splendid Kevin Henkes. Wish I’d written it.
Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes is published by Hodder (0 340 71465 4, £4.99 pbk).
David Almond’s latest book is Wild Girl, Wild Boy (Hodder, 0 340 85431 6, £5.99 pbk).