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A Fuse #8 Production
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Top 100 Picture Books #66: Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes

#66 Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes (1991)
29 points

The last time I conducted this poll we ended up with results for Kitten’s First Full Moon, Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse, even Chester’s Way but NOT Chrysanthemum.  That was shocking.  This time a great wrong has been righted.  Mum’s the word on whether or not the other books made the list this time around.

The description from the publisher reads, “Chrysanthemum loves her name — until she starts kindergarten, which is an unfamiliar world full of short names like Sue, Bill, Max, Sam, and Joe. But it’s Victoria who really makes Chrysanthemum wilt, offering that she was named after her grandmother, which is much more important than being named after a flower. Though Chrysanthemum’s parents try to soothe her wounded soul with “hugs, kisses, and Parcheesi,” it’s not easy to find solace (and regain lost self-esteem) with all the girls on the playground threatening to “pluck” and “smell” you.  Then the children meet their music teacher, charismatic Mrs. Twinkle. Mrs. Delphinium Twinkle, that is. When Mrs. Twinkle announces that she wants to name her baby the prettiest name she has ever heard, and that that name is Chrysanthemum, all the kids wish they had flower names, too. For her part, Chrysanthemum blooms once again.”

  • In terms of awards, this puppy got an inclusion on the ALA Notable Children’s Book list, a listing in the Horn Book Fanfare, and a mention with the NCTE Notable Children’s Trade Book in the Language Arts.
  • Browse inside the book here.

SLJ said of it, “This sensitive story will strike a chord with young children, particularly those who also have difficult or unfamiliar names.”

Kirkus liked it too saying, “Henkes’s language and humor are impeccably fresh, his cozy illustrations sensitive and funny, his little asides to adults an unobtrusive delight. Another winner from this perceptive artist.”

And Horn Book said it was, “Perfectly executed in words and illustration. . . . Few illustrators write as well as they draw; Kevin Henkes demonstrates once again that he belongs to that select company.”

A pity the Weston Woods video doesn’t have a trailer available out there.  It’s one of the lovelier adaptations they’ve done and always a favorite during movie days at the library.  Instead, check out this interview with Mr. Henkes in his studio:

Personally I’m fond of this cover:

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. […] belong to Kevin Henkes. Quotes found at SLJ’s A Fuse #8 Production’s own review.} Share […]