Since September signifies the beginning of a new school year in many areas, I thought it would be nice to review one of my very favorite children’s books that I would read during the first few days of kindergarten. What I love most about this book is that it is intended for children involved in difficult situations, including, but not limited to, starting school. This book was actually published by the Child Welfare League of America, and used with children (and some adults) who are facing challenges and having trouble coping. A quote from the forward reads, “A child entering a new school or going away to camp, a child entering foster care or residential care, a child facing a temporary separation from loved ones or the death of a parent, grandparent, or other special person, even a fearful adult, will find reassurance in these pages.”
The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn, illustrated by Ruth E. Harper and Nancy M. Leak
This is the sweet story of little Chester Racoon, who is facing the beginning of school for the first time. He is scared to leave his mother, and tells her that he just wants to stay home with her, play with his friends, play with his toys and read his books. She lovingly tells Chester that “sometimes we all have to do things we don’t want to do”, but that he’ll love school once he starts. She tells him about all the new friends he’ll meet, the new things he’ll do and learn, and then shares with him a secret that will help him get through the hard times. Chester is intrigued by what this secret is, and then Mrs. Racoon tells him about the Kissing Hand. Mom shows Chester what the Kissing Hand is by taking his hand, spreading the fingers apart and placing a kiss right in the middle of his palm. Chester feels his mother’s kiss “rush from his hand, up his arm, and into his heart.” Mrs. Racoon then tells Chester that whenever he feels lonely and needs some love from home all he has to do is press his palm to his cheek and think, “Mommy loves you.” She promises him that the kiss will jump to his face and fill him with warm toasty thoughts. Mrs. Racoon lovingly wraps Chester’s fingers around the kiss telling him not to lose it, and assuring him that it won’t wash off. Chester loved his Kissing Hand and it made him feel as if his mother’s love was with him at all times.
That evening, as Chester and his mom are standing in front of the school, Chester kisses his mom’s hand, telling her that she has a Kissing Hand, too. Then Chester happily dances away to join his new friends at school. As Mrs. Racoon watches her son enter school she presses her palm against her cheek and smiles. “The warmth of Chester’s kiss filled her heart with special words. ‘Chester loves you,’ it sang. ‘Chester loves you.’”
I always became teary when reading this story to my kindergartners during the beginning days of school. This is such a hard time for so many of them (as well as their parents), and I am aware of the emotions that are so abundant. The illustrations in this book are beautiful, and remind me of many of the storybooks that I read as a child. The detailed drawings show the emotion in the characters so well, and help gives this story substance and depth.
As a fun follow-up activity for school and home, you can make sugar cookies with chocolate kisses on the palm.