August 14, 2017

I Love My Purse

Written by Belle DeMont
Illustrated by Sonja Wimmer
Annick Press
978-1-55451-954-5
36 pp.
Ages 5-8
September 2017


Children will be picking out their first-day-of-school clothes soon.  They'll be looking for clothes and accessories that make them feel good and look good but they'll also be thinking about how others will see them.  Charlie, the boy in I Love My Purse, is familiar with this process.  When he looks up at his sky-high (he stands on 4 chairs and 5 pillows and 4 books to reach the top) closet which is a colourful menagerie of clothes, footwear and more, he sees "nothing he liked.  Nothing except the bright red purse that his grandma had let him have." Until now, he'd only worn it viewing himself in the mirror.
From I Love My Purse 
by Belle DeMont 
illus. by Sonja Wimmer
When his hipster dad sees him, he questions why his son is wearing a purse.  Honestly, Charlie tells him, "'Cause I want to." Of course his dad's initial response is to tell him that boys do not carry purses and that one can't always wear what they love, like him and his Hawaiian shirts, inappropriate for his suit and tie workplace.  At school, his classmate Charlotte questions him similarly, declaring that, although she loves face paint, she can't come to school wearing it.  Charlie replicates his response: "'Cause I want to" and "Because I love my purse."  He is polite enough, however, to offer that maybe he'd go along with their suggestions of a backpack the next day.

This continues when a group of older boys led by Sam approaches Charlie in the school cafeteria.  Sam's response is about wishing he could eat actual food rather than the slop served up at school but he can't very well march into the kitchen and start cooking. The crossing guard's feedback is perhaps the warmest.
"Well, I love it!" said the crossing guard.  "Have I ever told you about my favorite sparkly shoes?"
From I Love My Purse 
by Belle DeMont 
illus. by Sonja Wimmer
The next day, everyone who'd questioned him the day before has relaxed their stance, showing a hint of their own preferences, though still somewhat shy.  It's not until the third day that his father is wearing his Hawaiian shirt, Charlotte has her face painted like a tiger, and Sam's cooking risotto.  And the crossing guard?  He's wearing his sparkly shoes that send Charlie on another foray into proclaiming his individuality.

From I Love My Purse 
by Belle DeMont 
illus. by Sonja Wimmer
Nova Scotian writer Belle DeMont and German illustrator Sonja Wimmer (whose art you might recognize from Mahtab Narsimhan's Looking for Lord Ganesh, 2016) give a jazzy feel to the text and illustrations.  Perhaps it's the fluidity of the art and the prose, or maybe it's Charlie's "cool cat" attitude.  From the swinging purse to the pliable characters (both in body and disposition), Belle DeMont and Sonja Wimmer have given us a wonderful story about self-expression.

Charlie may love that bright red purse but I love Charlie for his refreshing and honest appreciation for  that tote that others question, ridicule and even condemn him for carrying.  For Charlie, carrying that purse is nothing abnormal, it's just something he does.  It's sweet, it's honest and it's Charlie.  And it should be all of us.  The message of I Love My Purse is about fulfilling a need for self-expression in dress or action and it's paramount.  Forget the stereotyping that tells us a boy carrying a purse is inappropriate. Haven't we gone beyond that narrow-minded thinking?  Charlie has.  Let's all embrace our inner Charlie and bear our purses proudly, regardless of gender.

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