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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.

  1. What does the word “perfect” mean to you?
  2. Do you think it is possible for someone to be perfect? Why, or why not?
  3. Do you think there can be a perfect characteristic about someone- or a part of someone that is perfect?
  4. Can people do things perfectly?
  5. For example: can someone play piano perfectly? Can more than one person play the piano perfectly? What if they are playing different notes?
  6. Have you ever heard the saying, “Practice makes perfect?” What do you think it means? Do you believe it to be true?

Chrysanthemum loved her name and always believed that her name was perfect as well.

  1. Is it possible for somebody’s name to be perfect?
  2. Should our names be chosen when we are babies, or after we grow up an can decide for ourselves?
  3. Suppose your family decided to name your dog (insert pet species here) Spot, and your friend says to you, “Spot is a perfect name for your dog!” What do you think they mean?
  4. Can a name become perfect, or more suited to someone over time, as when we say, “You have grown into your name.”
  5. Why would someone want to change his or her name?

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.

  1. Why do you think the class laughed when Mrs. Chud took attendance?
  2. Would you have laughed at Chrysanthemum, even though it hurt her feelings?
  3. After her first day of class, Chrysanthemum wishes she had a different name. Do you think she should feel badly about her name?
  4. What do you think she should have done?

After Chrysanthemum’s second day of school, her mother tells her the kids are being mean because they are jealous of Chrysanthemum’s name.

  1. Do you know what it means to be jealous?
  2. Have you ever been jealous of someone else?
  3. How did you treat the person you were jealous of?
  4. Do you think that Chrysanthemum’s mother was right, that the kids really were jealous and that is why they were being mean to her?

This book module deals with ethics, specifically friendship. You can buy this book on Amazon.

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