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Sunday, January 9, 2011

Chrysanthemum, Chrysanthemum, Chrysanthemum

Chrysanthemum is one of my all time favorite books.  Kevin Henkes has such craft when writing that it appeals to both children and adults.  The illustrations parallel the writing like I've never seen.

Chrysanthemum is a mouse that absolutely adores her name.  That is, until she gets to school.  All her classmates' names are 3-4 letters long.  Hers "scarcely" fits on a nametag.  You discover the struggles of a young mouse trying to fit in.  Her nemesis is Victoria, a perfect representation of how NOT to act.  Chrysanthemum dreams of new, shorter names until their music teacher admits that she, too is named after a flower.  This immediately impacts everyone's attitude towards Chrysanthemum.  Chrysanthemum becomes the envy of the class and Victoria is reduced to messing up her lines in the class play!

This is advanced reading for most PreK-2 students, so it is suggested that you read it aloud to your child before completing any of these activities:

Henkes does a remarkable job using all context of Chrysanthemum's name to describe the events that happen to her.  He uses phrases such as "Chrysanthemum wilted" to depict her sadness.  See if your child can find other references to the flower connotation of her name.

Henkes also uses a pattern of three in his writing and illustrations.  See if your child can find all the threesomes, whether it be in the actual text or the pictures.

Chrysanthemum is composed of 13 letters.  See how many smaller words your child can make out of it.

Students need to understand the difference between short and long vowels.  Short vowels are most 3 letter words with the vowel in the middle (A- pat, E- pet, I- bit, O- pot and U- but).  Long vowels actually make the name of the letter.  Long a makes the A sound, long e the E sound, etc.  (A- snake, E- need, I- smile, O- boat, U- blue).  Depending on the age of your child, have them go on a word hunt throughout the book trying to find some of the short of long vowel sounds.  You can choose one vowel at a time, or all of them.  For PreK-1, it is probably best to stick with the short vowels.  End of the year 1st graders and all 2nd graders should have mastered those; therefore, they should search for long vowel sounds.  Make it FUN!  Spread out some shaving cream on a smooth baking tray and have your child copy the words with their fingers onto it.  Before writing the next one, just smooth the shaving cream with your hand!

For more advanced children, find the word "dreadful."  Discuss how "ea" in this word makes the short e sound.  See if you can find any other words that have "ea."  Do they always make the short e sound?  ("ea" can make the short e, as in bread, or the long e, as in bead).  Look in other books, too!

Happy cuddling and reading :)


  1. Thank you for starting this wonderful blog. It's always fun to hear about good books to read and share.

  2. In my classroom I always have the parents write a little note about how their child got their name. This book is a great way to let your child know how their name was chosen especially for them. I have heard so many wonderful stories throughout the years when I do this activity. It is a great conversation starter.

  3. That's a great idea! I'll make a note for next year. Thanks Crissy!

  4. Thanks so much for this information. A friend sent this to me (her daughter is in your class)and it has a lot of great ideas for my 5 yr old Kindergartener who is a beginning reader. Great tips for us to do at home! Our school does the name thing at the beginning of the year at Open House and it's fun for the kids to read it and talk about it.

  5. I just found your blog and it's wonderful. I am currently 3 classes from finishing my masters in reading!!! I am currently a Title I reading/math teacher. I previously taught 2nd grade and loved it also. I can't wait to read about more of your great ideas!

  6. Thanks for stopping by! Good luck with your masters. It's challenging but definitely worth it! Please feel free to share any ideas. I'm searching for them too!