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Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes Children's Book Review with Story Summary
Chrysanthemum Story Summary
Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes is one of the all-star books of the children's literary world. Kevin Henkes' title character is a cute little mouse with a very big name. Chrysanthemum loves her name, and can even spell it, but when she goes to school, she is mercilessly teased by a group of nasty little mouselets who use her name as an excuse to pick on her.
Chrysanthemum goes home each night to her caring and concerned parents, who tell her she is winsome and winning, and although Chrysanthemum is reassured that she is the center of her parents' universe, her parents' concern doesn't solve the problem. Finally, at school, Chrysanthemum meets a fabulous new music teacher whom all of the mouse children adore. Ms. Twinkle is a ray of sunshine, and when she produces a musical play, Chrysanthemum is chosen to be a daisy.
When Chrysanthemum confides in her teacher about the way the other children are teasing her, Mrs. Twinkle restores Chrysanthemum's confidence, and makes her the envy of all her peers.
Chrysanthemum and Teasing at School: What Makes This Book an All-Star
Chrysanthemum is one of my all-time favorite children's books. The story is written in a way that will appeal to children, parents, and their teachers. Kevin Henkes' story about teasing is a success because the author understands his subject and presents it in an entertaining way that invites sympathy for the child being teased. The title character of this story begins as a care-free and happy-go-lucky girl whose parents dote on her. She loves her name. In the story, she repeats her name to herself in a sort of sing-song melody that conveys complete and total contentedness with herself and her small familial existence. But when Crysanthemum is teased by the other girls at school, her innocent and happy-go-lucky world is shattered. She becomes embarrassed and distressed by her unusually long name. Chrysanthemum's parents continue to do what they have always done, which no longer works. Now that Chrysanthemum's world has grown to include the school environment, her parents no longer can offer the kinds of reassurance that they once did. When Crysanthemum's ebullient music teacher chimes in with her own long floral name, Crysanthemum's confidence is restored. The other mouse girls at first envy, then copy, then accept Crysanthemum.
Even though the characters in Henkes stories are only about two inches tall, the characters' have experiences that most school-aged children will be able to relate to. Henkes shows a realistic understanding and empathy for a child who is in a teasing or bullying situation. I always get a bit choked up for Crysanthemum. The parent in me feels no child should have to be exposed to this unpleasant aspect of life in a public school. Although this story has a happy ending, many children who are teased at school don't experience such happy endings. This book could help you begin a dialogue in a classroom setting about teasing or bullying, and to set expectations about classroom behaviors. Other books about bullying address the topic in a more direct way, but this book is an excellent one to share with an elementary school classroom because its humor and tone are lighthearted, and the ending is not only happy, it is jubilant.
Children's Names Are An Important Part of Who They Are
Another book about the importance of a child's name is Arlene Mosel's Tikki-Tikki-Tembo. This other fanciful "pseudo fable" is a classic children's story that can help you explore your discussion of teasing into a different direction of personal identity and stereotypes. Compare this title with My Name is Yoon, a book I strongly recommend as a title to pair with Tikki Tikki Tembo.
Books for Kids and Teachers about Bullying
- Favorite teachers
- First grade
- Self esteem
- Making friends
Read this book at the beginning of the school year and then have a discussion in your classroom about teasing. Ask your students if they have ever been teased. What happened? How did they feel? What could they have done about it? After several students have shared experiences, ask for some suggestions on how to handle teasing. Explain that your classroom will be a teasing-free zone.
More Resources to Help Prevent Teasing and Bullying
- Education World's Bullying Page: Includes suggested classroom activities to prevent bullying and to promote respect within the classroom.
More on Bullying at HubPages
- How I Survived Bullying
For some people, the school years are the best of their lives. I was not some people.