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Title: The Kissing Hand
Author: Audrey Penn
Illustrator: Ruth E. Harper and Nancy M. Leak
Publisher: Tanglewood Press
Year of publication: 1993

The Kissing Hand is a story about anthropomorphic raccoons. Young Chester is nervous about heading off to school. He doesn’t want to leave his mother, his toys, his friends, and his books. The story opens with a full-page depiction of Chester with tears in his eyes asking his mother if he can stay home from school. His mother, Mrs. Raccoon, gently explains that doing seemingly scary things is part of growing up. In order to ease his anxiety, Mrs. Raccoon lets Chester in on a secret. She kisses his palm so he can take her love wherever he goes. This physical and visual reminder helps comfort Chester and before he heads off to school he gives her a kissing hand as well. Full of his mother’s love and encouragement, Chester bounds off to school, ready to take on whatever life has to throw at him. The gift of Chester’s kissing hand to his mother also warms Mrs. Raccoon and provides a way for both mother and child to ease into school without an abundance of sadness and separation anxiety.

Young children are drawn to books about animals. Anthropomorphic raccoons are a great way to engage children and maintain their attention Harper and Leak’s watercolor illustrations beautifully capture the mood of the story. Chester’s time at home with his mother is depicted with warm autumnal tones. The warm colors represent the comfort of home and the known world. As the time for Chester to head to school draws near, the colors grow cool. The blues and greens represent the unknown. Chester is heading out into the dark (both literally and metaphorically). Important events have standalone pages without text. After Mrs. Raccoon kisses Chester’s hand a soft portrait of his hand in her hand exudes warmth and love.

The Kissing Hand effectively deals with issues of separation anxiety. It would be an appropriate book for children ready to head off to school for the first time. While the book would certainly comfort children with a strong familial support system, a child who doesn’t have a supportive parent could face even more anxiety based on the presentation of this book. The Kissing Hand is a perfect book for a parent to read to a nervous child but due to the multitude of different family situations, I would not recommend it for a story time program or something of that nature.

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