Henkes, K. Lilly’s purple plastic purse. New York: Greenwillow Books.
In this story, the main character exhibits the traits of a little girl through being excited about special accessories given to her by her “Grammy”. Even though the main character which is a young mouse, had previously loved school and her teacher, she soon becomes upset because she gets in trouble for distracting her classmates with the special accessories. In all of Kevin Henkes’s books that feature these mice characters there is a theme, which provides a real-life connection with lessons that most young children learn as they grow. However, in this story the theme is well developed and apparent. The main character learns about self-discipline and behavioral expectations. As an example, when she is upset she illustrates a picture with negative sayings about her teacher because she feels that he is being unfair. Yet, once she realizes that her teacher has good reasons (not disrupting other students) for taking away her special items, she reconsiders and decides that the teacher is only being fair to everyone in her class. As a result, she writes a story and illustrates a second picture where she apologizes for her actions. This theme shows the reader why rules are necessary, especially in school.
Since the theme focuses on rules, and particularly in school, the setting is integral to the story. As an example of how the author makes the setting integral is that he compliments the text with illustrations in the beginning of the story concerning the different reasons why Lilly loves school and her teacher which leads to the fact that Lilly realizes that she trusts and respects her teacher because he sets expectations, he does this so every student can enjoy school. As well, I noticed that the author and illustrator provided more detail in the backgrounds of the pictures in this story as opposed to the other two stories discussed in this blog. I feel that this was done to fully describe the school setting in order to further enforce that the setting is integral to convey the theme of the story. Moreover, when comparing the illustrations in all three books I notice that the author and illustrator always uses bright watercolors to convey the whimsical nature of a child and to aesthetically appeal to the eye of a child. As well, in all three books he used the visual elements of line and shape to show expressions on the characters’ faces.
I feel that this story could easily be used to instruct on the fictional element of setting. I feel this way because the author made the setting integral to the story, providing a detailed description of what the setting looked like and what types of activities happen at school. He does this through his illustrations and through his ample use of adjectives in describing objects and actions that take place at school. Students could be asked to write descriptive sentences about their own school and teachers. As well, I feel that this book lends itself to teaching about theme, while integrating practical living content about why rules exist. Students could be asked to write and illustrate the theme of the story using the real-life connection of having rules at their school or create a cause and effect graphic organizer about why the teacher had specific rules and why this made the classroom fair and enjoyable for all of the students. When considering our comprehension strategy of the week, “Most Important Word”, I believe it would be “teacher”. Focusing on the meaning of this word, being someone who guided another to the correct conclusion, would fit with the theme. This could be done by using the teacher’s actions as examples of how he taught Lilly the reasons for rules and using self-discipline to follow rules and meet behavior expectations. The question I have is if the setting of this story were changed to possibly a family’s home, would the theme be as clear?