December 24, 2017

Deus ex flora.


It's pretty sappy, and it's not really realistic. There's a girl whose parents love her very much and they named her Chrysanthemum. She loves her name until she goes to preschool and a bunch of other kids make fun of her name, especially Victoria who is named after her grandmother and says, "Chrysanthemum is named after a flower! Her name is so long!" Victoria keeps telling the teacher random facts about Chrysanthemum and making fun of Chrysanthemum's name, and Chrystanthemum just keeps going home miserably, and her parents say, "What's wrong?" And she says, "Well, kids are making fun of my name." And her parents are just like, "Oh don't worry about it. They're just jealous. It's a perfect name. You have the best name."

Victoria says things like, "A chrysanthemum is a flower. It lives in a garden with worms and other dirty things." And the teacher just says, "Thank you for sharing that with us, Victoria," and tells her to put her head down because it's naptime. Come on! Nobody is empathizing with the poor little girl. She keeps having nightmares about it. Then she goes to school and they're introduced to a new music teacher. Everybody loves the music teacher and thinks that she's amazing and has an amazing voice and everything about her is amazing. She assigns roles for the class musical, and Chrysanthemum's chosen to be a daisy, which Victoria and the other girls think is hilarious (because she's named after a flower). Then the teacher says, "Why are you all laughing at her? I'm named after a flower, too." And she's pregnant and if it's a girl she's thinking of naming it Chrysanthemum. Then all the other girls go, "Oh, well, if a cool person is named after a flower then we want to be named after flowers too." The end.

It's just so stupid. Names are definitely the kind of thing that kids will make fun of. Kids can be complete jerks. The music teacher realizes that to an extent, but when the music teacher also just so happens to be named after a flower, it's just too much of a coincidence. Why couldn't the music teacher just say, "Guys, seriously, shut up. Flowers are awesome," or anything like that? What is a kid reading this book going to do if somebody makes fun of their name and nobody cool has a name like theirs? It's stupid. And then in the epilogue, the teacher actually does give birth to a girl and names her Chrystanthemum. I mean, I guess she already had the idea beforehand, but it's almost like she's naming the baby after a student in her class.

The problem is a real problem that really exists, and while Chrysanthemum's parents are well-meaning, they don't actually do anything useful. The father keeps reading books like "Understanding Identity" and "Childhood Anxiety" and stuff like that, so it just comes off like they just don't know what to do. But the answer is not, "Wait until the problem solves itself." Empathize with the kid. Yes, her name is beautiful. But she loved her name before she went to school, and now she doesn't. So there is a legitimate problem going on with this child. Instead of just saying, "Don't worry about it, your troubles aren't important," you have to validate children's feelings.

And kids are making fun of a girl right in front of the teacher, and the teacher does absolutely nothing about it. Would it kill her to say, "Victoria, stop making fun of Chrysanthemum's name. How would you like it if somebody did that to you?" I mean that's part of what you teach children in preschool on your way to helping them become worthwhile adults. You teach them that everybody is worthy of respect. And Victoria doesn't get that message. The overall problem is not solved. What if they run into somebody else with a long name that isn't a flower? They're going to make fun of it.

The book isn't bad. It doesn't send a bad message. It's just that it doesn't offer a real solution to the real problem that it shows.


Don't be embarrassed about your name because cool people have weird names too.

Publication Year
  • 1991
Age Range
Age Range: 
Number of Pages
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Number of Words on Typical Page
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