Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Book #25: Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes

Image from
When Chrysanthemum was born her parents decided she was absolutely perfect and they gave her a name to match. Chrysanthemum loves her name until she starts school. Everyone laughs at her for being named after a flower and having the longest name (it barely fits on her name tag). Although her parents reassure Chrysanthemum that her name is precious, priceless, fascinating, and winsome, she has a hard time believing them when she is teased at school. One day Chrysanthemum’s class is introduced to Mrs. Twinkle, the music teacher. Mrs. Twinkle overhears the other girls teasing Chrysanthemum about her name and remarks that she has a name so long it scarcely fits on a nametag – Delphinium. Suddenly, everyone wishes they had a long, flowery name too. And Chrysanthemum knows her name is absolutely perfect.

Image from the Under The Green Willow Blog
Kevin Henkes has written and illustrated dozens of books and his style is very distinctive. The characters are mice costumed in a wonderful array of bright dresses, t-shirts, hats, and hair bows. There are also subtle details that will amuse adults, such as the Picasso-esque painting of mice hung in Chrysanthemum’s house.

The length of the story combined with the school setting make it a good book for preschool and kindergarten children. Chrysanthemum’s father uses a number of large and lovely words – envious, begrudging, winsome, precious, etc. Ask the kids if they can tell you what those words mean and help them define the ones they don’t know. What words do they use to describe their names?

This book is a must for storytime about personal names and is especially endearing to kids with unusual names. Try incorporating some of the songs and action rhymes about names in my earlier post on Matthew A.B.C.

Bring in pictures of chrysanthemums, delphiniums, and other flower commonly used as names, such as roses, daisies, or lilies. Talk about how each flower has similarities (leaves, petals) and differences (color, size), just as people have similarities and differences. Discuss how these attributes make each flower and person unique and special.

As the book mentions, Chrysanthemum has 13 letters in her name. Help the kids write out and count the letters in the name. You could also use Scrabble tiles. Ask people with 3 letter names to stand, then 4 letters, etc. until everyone is standing. If you have a white or chalk board you can have each child write their name under their number. Or have the kids write their name on a colored piece of paper and then stick that to the board. You can also do the same with consonants, vowels, or syllables. Combine the idea of flowers and names by making paper flowers with 1 letter on each petal.



  1. Thanks, City! Have you read Chrysanthemum with kids? I'm always to curious to hear which parts are their favorites.

    Thanks for reading!