What makes a book a Jewish book? The presence of a mezuzah? The words “Shabbat” or “Shalom?” The PJ Library Book Selection Committee is always looking for the very best books we can find—sometimes those books are overtly Jewish—and sometimes, the qualities are more subtle.
Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes is a beloved and well-known contemporary children’s book with a wonderfully special Jewish message. In this adorably illustrated story, Lilly, a young mouse, becomes angry with her favorite teacher and does something to deliberately hurt him. Lilly then recognizes and regrets her wrongdoing and works to make amends. In other words, Lilly goes through the stages of teshuva (literally “turning around”) or repentance, which, in Judaism, is a process that one undertakes in the period beginning with Rosh Hashanah and ending with Yom Kippur.
Recognizing wrongdoings, owning up to them, and working to make things right – these are no easy tasks for children, adults, or mice. But afterwards, things are so much better, as we learn from Lilly who “ran and skipped and hopped and flew all the way home, she was so happy.”
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August 31, 2017