Story time is the best time of the day. Whether we're snuggled up on the couch or cozy in our pjs before bed, reading stories with my little ones is one of my favorite things to do. Everyone has a favorite book they remember from their childhood, and every day, parents and kids are discovering new classics of their own. There are many fabulous children's books out there, some of which everyone knows about and others we would have never discovered had my son not simply pulled a random book off a library shelf. I created this blog to share some of these wonderful stories with you. Think of it as a year's worth of the best children's books around, since no day should be without a great story. In the end, I hope we'll all have discovered at least a few new titles that will have made their way onto our list of family favorites. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Day 111: Chrysanthemum

Choosing what to name our children was always an exciting and important decision.  Both times I was pregnant, we found out what we were having -- the first time a boy, the second a girl -- and I loved knowing so that, among other reasons, I could start calling the baby by name.  My husband and I were very much on the same page when it came to selecting names, fortunately, both preferring classic names to trendy or unique ones.  Both of our children have very traditional English names:  Will and Emma.  I'll admit that as teachers, two other factors crossed our minds during our name selection process:  when our children's teachers looked at their class rosters someday, they would be able to pronounce their names properly and know whether they were looking for a boy or a girl.  Silly, perhaps, but true.  We also hoped that our children would love their names, since to us, they were as perfect as our little ones themselves.  Chrysanthemum's parents felt much the same way.  "Her name must be everything she is," said her mother.  "Her name must be absolutely perfect," said her father.  And it was."  Chrysanthemum, Chrysanthemum, Chrysanthemum.  Kevin Henkes has created another masterpiece is this adorable and clever story.  Chrysanthemum loved every thing about her name -- the way it sounded when her mother woke her up or her father called her for dinner, the way it looked when she saw it written in ink on an envelope, in icing on her birthday cake, and when she wrote it herself with her fat orange crayon -- until she started school.  Other students laughed when the teacher read her name during roll call, and girls teased her:  "It's so long... It scarcely fits on your name tag... You're named after a flower!"  Each day after school, Chrysanthemum returns home feeling a bit sad and wilted, and each evening her parents manage to cheer her up.  Still, Chrysanthemum can't help but wish she had a different name... that is, until she meets the ever-so-fabulous music teacher, Mrs. Delphinium Twinkle.  Like so many of Henkes' books, this story is wonderful on many levels.  He is a master of addressing issues that are common among preschoolers and elementary aged children (in this case, teasing and wanting to fit in), while at the same time teaching children more appropriate ways to behave and treat one another.  In this case, he celebrates the beauty of being yourself and not only appreciating differences in one another, but celebrating them.  I also LOVE his illustrations and the way in which he portrays the unconditional love of his characters' parents.  There are so many clever little details in his drawings that are not to be missed:  the hilarious face on the very pregnant Mrs. Twinkle's dress, the map of Wisconsin and its cheese on the bulletin board, and especially the books Chrysanthemum's father can be seen reading throughout the story -- The Inner Mouse Vol. 1: Childhood Anxiety and A Rose by any Other Name... Understanding Identity.  We highly recommend this book to any young reader, particularly one whose name is different or who might be teased by her peers.  If you love Kevin Henkes as much as we do, you won't be disappointed. 


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