Kevin Henkes can do no wrong when it comes to children’s books. Chrysanthemum is a personal favorite for its authenticity- as I think the way the kids make fun of Chrysanthemum for her exceptionally long name is unfortunately realistic and relatable for kids.
When I would read this to my class, we would always stop on the line, “Chrysanthemum wilted,” and I would model what it looks like when a person wilts, my body slumping down like a flower heavy with drooping petals. Then as a class, we all pretended to wilt, just to show how unkind words can actually change a person’s body language.
The discussion that ensued afterward usually was about how awful those words must’ve felt for Chrysanthemum to wilt as she did, and what she was likely feeling in that moment. Teaching kindness, empathy, and compassion are so important, especially in the world we currently live in. I’m grateful for books like this and the dialogue about kindness and empathy that they encourage.