Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Book Review: Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes

Why I Love This Book:

Looking back on my childhood, I had my share of Chrysanthemum moments. I grew up on a street with two other girls. Well before the math lesson was taught in school, I learned that 3 is an odd number. Feeling a sense of belonging is so important to kids....and I had plenty of experience to the contrary on Beverly Road. I finally got smart and moved on to a whole new world one block over. Problem solved, until Middle School, that is.

The pressures were enormous and girls are cruel, plain and simple. I had entered into a whole new social strata and the rules had changed. Best friends swapped partners on a daily basis, and someone was always left out in the cold wondering what she had done wrong. Just like Chrysanthemum, I remember feeling anxious not knowing what the next day would bring.

Talking to friends now about those years, we realize that we ALL went through the same thing, and wonder why the heck kids put each other through this torturous period. It is what it is. Can't be avoided, so I am bucking up early and reading Chrysanthemum with my children to prepare them for the inevitable!

Book Summary/Review:

A little girl- a happy, secure, content, well-loved little girl- is thrust into that brutal, unfriendly place called SCHOOL. On her very first day, she skips all the way with a pretty smile on her face to match her equally beautiful name- Chrysanthemum.

At least she always thought it was beautiful. Until kids like Jo, Rita and Victoria change her mind. She’s a flower! Smell her! Pick her! Each day Chrysanthemum returns home more dejected; comfort foods and family time are no longer enough to restore her confidence.

And then one day a new music teacher with a magical voice joins the classroom, winning over all the children. She has a special secret to share about her first name and Chrysanthemum blossoms into a happy child once again.

A Flowery Story about Fitting In

The desire to fit in and make friends is present at the core of every child entering new social situations, especially school. Kevin Henkes’ story is a touching tale of a child who struggles to make friends simply because her name is so different. She ultimately learns to appreciate her uniqueness, after enduring some heavy-duty teasing, and comes out stronger for it.

At some point in every child’s life, he or she will undoubtedly experience feeling left out, sad, and insecure, just like Chrysanthemum. It is a rite of passage that no one can or should escape. The key is to overcome the situation relatively unscathed; preferably, with more strength and dignity of character. And that is exactly what Chrysanthemum demonstrates.

This book is one that must be read to every child. The story is extremely balanced- the teasers are not evil bullies and Chrysanthemum is not an overly sensitive victim. The teasing is very realistic and normal. However, the effects can be very devastating if the child on the receiving end does not have a strong support system of family and teachers behind him or her.

The valuable lessons learned in this endearing story should be shared with every child.

1 comment:

  1. I like the book Chrysanthemum and I like how you retold the story.