Review of the Day: Lilly's Big Day
Greenwillow's pulling out all the stops for this, the latest in the Lilly series. If I play my cards right, I may be able to act out this book at the next children's librarian meeting. Fingers crossed, kids!
When I lived in Minneapolis, Minnesota I had the unique privilege of getting to see the city's world-renowned children's theater perform a play based on three of Kevin Henkes' Lilly books. The show began with "Chester's Way", continued with "Julius, Baby of the World" and ended with "Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse" (which is rightly considered a classic to this day). I loved the show, but now I have a regret. If only if only "Lilly's Big Day" could have been a part of the proceedings. Reading it now it's clear that Henkes still has his finger planted firmly on the pulse of the Lillyverse. As Lilly's grandmother points out, her granddaughter is adorable, "in small doses". Our heroine is just as bold, brash, and single-minded as ever. And as with every one of her adventures, all turns out well in the end.
Big news, people. Big big news. Mr. Slinger, the nicest teacher a kid like Lilly ever had, is getting married. And you know what THAT means? A wedding. And do you know what a wedding means? It means that somebody is going to be the flower girl, and Lilly has a pretty good idea of who exactly that should be. In her spare time she gets ready practicing her walk and stance. She also drops subtle hints in front of Mr. Slinger. Hints like mentioning that a flower girl is what she has always wanted to be, "Even more than a surgeon or a diva or a hairdresser". During recess she picks handfuls of weeds and walks significantly in front of Mr. Slinger. She even draws beautiful pictures of herself in the role. You can understand then that when Mr. Slinger gently explains to her that his niece Ginger will be the flower girl, Lilly is distraught. Kindly, Mr. Slinger tells Lilly that she can be the flower girl's assistant. She is not wholly pleased with this arrangement but there isn't a whole lot she can do about it. When the big moment for Ginger to walk down the aisle arrives, however, the little girl freezes in fear. It's up to Lilly to pick Ginger up and carry her proudly down the aisle, holding her head high, smiling brightly, raising her eyebrows, and turning her head from side to side. Later at the reception Lilly shows Ginger how to do a proper walk and later gives the little girl a big hug, telling her, "Ginger, when I get married, you can be my flower girl".
Henkes is all about the visual gags in this book. When we first meet Ginger, the real flower girl, she stands happily frozen, never changing expression even when Lilly wonders if she's really SURE she wants to be a flower girl. Then, when Ginger freezes at the wrong moment, her deer-caught-in-the-headlights eyes are reminiscent of Kitten's in "Kitten's First Full Moon". Wide white circles with a single black dot in the center. Mr. Slinger's outfits do not disappoint either. For his own wedding he sports a green shirt with white polka dots, a rainbow tie, and flip-flops. I also loved that when Lilly's family is sitting down for dinner the table is set primarily with bread and an assortment of delicious cheeses. And when exactly did baby brother Julius get so doggone big? The kid's practically a toddler!
One might wonder why Mr. Slinger doesn't just make Lilly AND Ginger both flower girls. But if Mr. Slinger has any idea of the kind of person Lilly is, he might have had a very good reason for not putting too much of a spotlight on this particular pupil of his. The other kids in the class might get jealous and she does kind of have a bad habit of soaking up attention. As with any book in which the main character is filled up with spunk, some people are going to rant over Lilly's need for attention. They will call her "brat" or "spoiled" but these words miss the mark entirely. We've all known Lillys in our day. We know how desperate they are for acceptance and love and it's nice to read a book where the main character has a bit of spunk and moxie in her makeup.
I don't think it's wrong to say that plenty of women in the world will be heartbroken when they learn that Mr. Slinger is no longer on the market. As men in picture books go, he's got to be one of the best. On behalf of everyone then I bid a fond farewell to this, the sweetest of teachers. Good luck, Mr. Slinger. You broke many a heart when you got hitched. As for "Lilly's Big Day", it's a lovely new addition to a wonderful series. Bound to be enjoyed by many many people, especially those with insipient flower girls of their own.