Kitty's Reviews > Chrysanthemum

Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes
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Sep 13, 11

bookshelves: picture-books

Forgive me one, forgive me all, I'm about to do what the school librarian, my teachers and my guardians told me never to do. I'm about to break one of the chief cardinal rules of the internet - I'm going to tell you all my real name.


Hello all, my name is Acacia. It's a romanization of a hellenization of what most scholars probably agree upon was an old Egyptian word, but it may go back farther than that. It's also a type of tree with the best, most delicious looking buttery yellow flowers on it that drive most people's noses mad during spring time. It's my name and I love it.

When I was younger I hated it. Every morning before preschool my morning ritual ended with me standing before our bathroom mirror while my mother patiently curled my hair. Right after she finished, but before she selected that day's bow and secured it to my head I would turn to her and ask why I wasn't named Jennifer. Jennifer was the name where it was really at in my head - princesses were named Jennifer, girls in movies were named Jennifer, the most popular girl on the playground was named Jennifer. Who ever heard of a magical princess who rode unicorns in her spare time being named Acacia? Pretty, normal girls had nice names, they weren't named after trees that gave most people the sneezes. My mother, well accustomed to the argument would patiently put my bow in place, securing it with a loud snap against my skull and would tell me the same thing she said every time - "there are plenty of little girls out there named Jessica. But there are hardly any little girls named Acacia. You're just you, you're one of a kind. Besides, I don't really think you'd be all that happy as a Jennifer, because then you wouldn't do all the things only you can and like to do". At school or out and about it was no help whining to other grown ups about it either since I more or less got the same response. I was three years old and I was neck deep in the deepest, darkest, most sinister plot grown up kind had ever invented - the plot to keep me from being a Jennifer.

The years went by and the teasing persisted. Substitute teachers mangled my name in unprecedented ways, I learned to predict whenever people were about to call my name on the overhead speaker at the pharmacists because there was always the tell tale "a" sound followed by a confused pause. And always in the back of my head was the never ending litany of my childhood - "I could have been a Jennifer, I could have been a Jennifer, I could have been a Jennifer!". It was years until I came to accept my name, more until I came to that one morning where I was able to wake up, sound my name out loud and think "wow, that's really beautiful and unique", and more still until another morning came when I could call up my mom and confess that she was right all along, I really wouldn't have been happy as a Jennifer.

But now I'm deeply upset and unhappy again!

Where in the heck was this book when I needed it as a kid! What a book like this would have done for me! To know that one other kid (even if she were really more of a mouse and not really real) was going through the same thing I was would have been an awful big help. My heart went out completely to poor Chrysanthemum when her name wouldn't fit on her tag (I bet she could never find a mini licence plate at Disney Land either), I cringed with her when Victoria told the class her name held just as many letters as almost twice the alphabet and as she and her lackeys began to tease her. What I wouldn't have given for another oddly named, cool adult in my life just like Mrs. Twinkle. Oh well, better late than never, and at least I have this thing on hand for my own children.
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Diane Acacia is such a pretty name! Mine always gets changed to Diana (which I hate!) or Deanna (which I actually wouldn't have minded being named). I played it safe with my daughter's name, she's Katherine aka Katie, though she calls herself Kiki sometimes.

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