By Kevin Henkes, Harper Collins
From the day she was born, Chrysanthemum felt she had the perfect name. On her first day of school she was horrified to learn that not everyone felt this way, and she was bullied by the other children for having such a long name and being named after a flower. This bullying at school continues until one day the other kids in her class are introduced to the music teacher, Mrs. Twinkle, who tells them that they are wrong, and that they shouldn’t be so quick to judge Chrysanthemum or her name.
Guidelines for Philosophical Discussion
By Lydia Varon
Here I will focus on two topics raised by the story: the nature and possibility of perfection and the issue of children’s cruelty to one another.
From the very beginning of the book the word “perfect” is used repeatedly. It is used by Chrysanthemum’s parents about their little girl, as well as about her name. At this point you have a chance (as you will throughout the book) to bring up the question of whether or not perfection is possible, or a realistic outlook to have. In the story it is assumed that people’s names can be perfect. This assumption will help the children to develop their own ideas about what sorts of things, if any, can be perfect, whether there are different kinds of perfection and whether there are degrees of perfection.
Starting on her first day of school, Chrysanthemum is horribly teased about her name by a group of students in her class. Losing faith in the perfection of her name, Chrysanthemum begins to question her own self-worth. The story provides an opportunity to think about intolerance, jealousy and meanness and the kind of behavior that can result from them.
Questions for Philosophical Discussion
By Lydia Varon
Ever since Chrysanthemum was born her parents told her that her name was perfect, and so was she.
Chrysanthemum loved her name and always believed that her name was perfect as well.
Bullying and Peer Pressure
On Chrysanthemum’s first day at school, the other students made fun of her before meeting her, and after only hearing her name.
After Chrysanthemum’s second day of school, her mother tells her the kids are being mean because they are jealous of Chrysanthemum’s name.