Thursday, July 2, 2015

By Kevin Henkes

Who doesn’t love Chrysanthemum?  It is the perfect read-aloud for many, many reasons!  The beginning of the school year, acceptance of others, how to treat others with respect—to name a few!

I highly advise that when you use any book for a mentor text for reading or writing workshop, students are already familiar with the book-in others words you  should have already read that particular book as a read-aloud for enjoyment.

The reason? Simply put: If the students are already familiar with the content of the story, then they can more readily move to the next level of understanding and focus on the strategy for which you are choosing to use the book as a mentor/model.

Chrysanthemum is (or should be!) in the category of a book that is very familiar to children-which makes it a GREAT book to use as mentor text to teach and model strategies.

Awards:  MANY! ALA Notable Children's Books, 1991,  CCBC Choices, 1991  Horn Book Fanfare, 1992, Library of Congress,   Best Books of the Year, 1991  Parenting Magazine: Reading Magic Award, 1991   School Library Journal, Best Books,1991

Book Talk
A baby girl is born and her parents absolutely adore her.  They pick what they think is the perfect name-Chrysanthemum!  Because of her parents adoration, Chrysanthemum grows and blossoms!  She is a confident, happy, care-free child who also thinks her name is perfect.

A favorite line: “And when she was old enough to appreciate it, Chrysanthemum loved her named. She loved the way it sounded when her mother woke her up.   She loved the way it sounded when her father called her for dinner. And she loved the way it sounded when she whispered it to herself in the bathroom mirror: Chrysanthemum, Chrysanthemum, Chrysanthemum!”

And then she goes to school…

Chrysanthemum is shocked, saddened and deeply affected by the teasing of Victoria, Rita and Jo all because of her name.  She returns home to her parents who try everything to build Chrysanthemum’s confidence again—including serving her her favorite dinner—mac and cheese with ketchup!  This seems to work and Chrysanthemum feels happy the next day going off to school.

Again, the teasing by Victoria, Rita and Jo making fun of her name continues making Chrysanthemum feel horrible. And again, there is a flurry of hugs and kisses at home to make her feel better. That works and the next day off Chrysanthemum goes to school.

At school, the students meet Mrs. Twinkle, the arty, eccentric music teacher who has a beautiful singing voice and whose presence has completely captivated the class—including Victoria, Rita and Jo. Mrs. Twinkle selects students for the class musicale. Victoria, Rita and Jo try to make a good impression with Mrs. Twinkle by making fun of Chrysanthemum’s name in front of the teacher.  To their shock, Mrs. Twinkle completely supports and defends Chrysanthemum’s name by saying that she is also named after a flower and her name is also long.  AND if Mrs. Twinkle’s baby turns out to be a girl—she may consider naming her Chrysanthemum.

Chrysanthemum is thrilled beyond words for this support by someone that whole class loves: Mrs. Twinkle—especially now that Victoria, Rita and Jo are completely envious of Chrysanthemum…and Chrysanthemum’s name!  In fact, at this point, the three Mean Girls all try to pick a flower name for themselves.

Henkes adds a fun way to end the story—an epilogue!

In the epilogue—readers are brought up to date about the musicale—everything went well, except that Victoria was the only one who forgot her lines—which made Chrysanthemum laugh wildly as she did her Dance of the Flowers!   AND—readers learn the Mrs. Twinkle did have a baby girl and named her a perfect name—Chrysanthemum!

Suggested Uses as a Mentor Text:
Book Genre: Animal Fantasy
Readers Workshop strategies: Connecting, Inferring, Questioning, Summarizing
Writing Workshop genre and strategies: Narrative Writing, Opinion Writing, strong female, strong endings
Curricular Themes: Beginning of School, Treating others w/ respect

Kevin Henkes website

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