Until Chrysanthemum started kindergarten, she believed her parents when they said her name was perfect. But on the first day of school, Chrysanthemum begins to suspect that her name is far less than perfect, especially when her class dissolves into giggles upon hearing her name read aloud. That evening, Chrysanthemum's parents try to piece her self-esteem back together again with comfort food and a night filled "with hugs, kisses, and Parcheesi." But the next day Victoria, a particularly observant and mean-spirited classmate, announces that Chrysanthemum's name takes up 13 letters. "That's half the letters in the alphabet!" she adds. Chrysanthemum wilts. Pretty soon the girls are making playground threats to "pluck" Chrysanthemum and "smell her."
Kevin Henkes has great compassion for the victims of childhood teasing and cruelties--using fresh language, endearing pen-and-ink mouse characters, and realistic dialogue to portray real-life vulnerability. He also has great compassion for parents, offering several adult-humor jokes for anxious mommies and daddies. On the surface, the finale is overly tidy and the coincidences unbelievable. But in the end, what sustains Chrysanthemum, as well as this story, is the steadfast love and support of her family. And because of this, the closure is ultimately convincing and utterly comforting. ALA Notable Book, School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, Horn Book Fanfare Honor List. (Ages 4 to 8) --Gail Hudson
From School Library Journal
PreSchool-Grade 2-- She was a perfect baby, and her doting parents chose a name to match, Chrysanthemum. She is proud of her musical name until kindergarten, when she finds herself in a world of strange new names such as Sue, Bill, Max, Sam, and Joe--in short ( really short) a world of ordinary monikers. That wouldn't be so bad if the others--like Victoria--hadn't made a mean-spirited game of tormenting her, sending her home in tears to be comforted with cuddles and Parcheesi. Wisely, Chrysanthemum's concerned and loving parents try not to interfere, but what can't be put right by them is dealt with by lucky chance. The class learns that their popular music teacher not only has a whopper of a name herself--Delphinium--but also plans to name her expected baby by the prettiest name she has heard, Chrysanthemum. The charming mouse with her delicate little face seems just right for her name. The range of expression and emotion Henkes conveys in his pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations are "absolutely perfect." The impressionistic floral backdrops and patterning reinforce the story's lighthearted, yet tender theme. This sensitive story will strike a chord with young children, particularly those who also have difficult or unfamiliar names. --Joan McGrath, Education Centre Library, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.