Shortly after I began my library career in 1996, I had the privilege of hearing Mr. Henkes speak at Richland County Library in South Carolina. I have been a huge fan of his work ever since. Henkes has won several prestigious awards including Newberry and Caldecott honor medals. I simply love his sense of humor which is evident in the text of his books and even more so in his illustrations.
Chrysanthemum is a little mouse with a great big name. She is adored by her parents who think Chrysanthemum and her name are absolutely perfect. Chrysanthemum believes her parents until she starts school. On her first day, she is teased mercilessly by a group of mean mouse girls because she is “named after a flower and her name scarcely fits on a name tag.” The teasing continues every day. Chrysanthemum’s happy little world is completely shattered. Despite her parent’s assurances that her name is beautiful, precious, priceless, fascinating and winsome, Chrysanthemum no longer agrees. Her name leaves her feeling embarrassed and dejected. Her sadness leaves her parents feeling helpless and lost. In one illustration, Chrysanthemum’s father can be seen consulting a medical journal about childhood anxiety. All that changes when an enchanting music teacher enters the picture. When the wildly popular Mrs. Twinkle reveals that she too has a long first name (Delphinium) and is also named after a flower, Chrysanthemum’s confidence is restored. Chrysanthemum is a tender tale that’s a fun read while touching on important topics such as taunting, bullying, empathy and acceptance. This book could be a very beneficial read in classrooms at the start of school.
Wemberly worries about everything from the crack in the living room wall to whether or not there will be enough birthday cake at her party. She worries morning, noon and night. What if there’s actually a snake in the radiator making that hissing sound? Should her ever-present doll, Petal, have a car seat, too? What if no one even comes to her birthday party? All of her fears cause her supportive parents to, well ... worry! They, along with her laid-back grandma (she’s wearing a roller blades and a shirt that says “GO WITH THE FLOW”) try to reassure Wemberly so she’ll relax. But the first day of nursery school is right around the corner and the thought of it causes even more anxiety than usual. Poor Wemberly is beyond stressed out! “What if I can’t find the bathroom? What if no one else wears stripes? What if the room smells bad? What if the teacher is mean?”
When the first day of school finally arrives, Wemberly meets a kindred spirit who is also wearing stripes and carrying a doll. While they spend the day playing together, Wemberly still worries. “But no more than usual. And sometimes even less.”
“Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse”
Lilly loves school! She loves everything about it from the pointy pencils to the fish sticks and chocolate milk served every Friday in the lunchroom. But what Lilly loves most about school is her cool teacher, Mr. Slinger. Lilly is so inspired by Mr. Slinger that she hopes to someday be a teacher just like him. One Monday morning after a weekend shopping with her Grammy, Lilly is heartbroken when Mr. Slinger takes away her brand new purple plastic purse, movie star sunglasses and shiny quarters when they become a distraction in class. At first, Lilly is sad to lose her things. Then, she becomes furious with Mr. Slinger and even paints a not-so-nice portrait of her beloved teacher.
By the end of the day, Lilly’s anger turns to remorse as she realizes that Mr. Slinger still has faith in her. Lilly turns to her parents and they help her make things right again.
Anyone who has ever sought forgiveness will love this story.
— Misty Teasdale is the Family Place coordinator for the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County. She lives in West Bellaire with her husband and 6-year-old daughter. W