What is the book about?
Chrysanthemum loves her name. She loves it written on a birthday cake, on an envelope, or whispered to her at bedtime. Then she starts school and the other children begin to make fun of her name.,…and she wishes she was named anything else! She begins to wilt, like a flower. What will it take to make her bloom again?
How did I discover it?
It was in my home bookshelf for a while, but this was a first grade read aloud as well. It works very well in that respect (see below).
What do I love about the book?
Henkes’ illustrations hands down make this book. The little mice are adorable and expressive. We get glimpses of their lives into little bits of dialogue that appear in some illustrations. Sometimes there are multiple on one page, rather than a full-page drawing. The lyrical prose isn’t to be overlooked, though. The repetition of the writing will have readers also falling in love with Chrysanthemum’s name, as well as driving the point home in the end that it’s good to be unique.
The same can actually be said for the rest of Henkes’ books. I especially love Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse as well, but Chrysanthemum was my first venture into this world, so it’s my choice for this series.
Digging deeper into the fandom
I read a lot of Henkes’ other mouse books after this one. A favorite was Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse, but others includes Julius, the Baby of the World; Owen; Sheila Rae the Brave; and A Weekend with Wendell. I adore how they take place in one universe and how characters overlap.
Favorite memory involving the book
Listening to my teacher read the book aloud. Chrysanthemum really does have a nice ring to it!
My thoughts on the book now
Admittedly, I do think the moral is a little sketchy looking back at it, or the lesson for bullies anyway. Basically one of Chrysanthemum’s teachers comes out announcing her own very long name. The bullies are shocked and decide that they love Chrysanthemum’s name, too. So the lesson here is to have the teacher subtly threaten the kids with the fact that she shares a characteristic with the bullied student so they won’t say mean things in her presence again? What happens when that teacher leaves to have her baby? Will the bullies get going again? Anyway, despite this, it’s still a really cute story and a great starting point for the Henkes mouse universe. It’s still a cute story, let’s be honest.
Check out more books from my childhood: