Allison's Book Bag

The Kissing Hand (25th Anniversary) by Audrey Penn

Posted on: September 7, 2018

There are books that one should buy the instant they’re published. They are the books that become frayed and worn from multiple rereads. At the same time, their stories are so heartwarming one must tell every reader about them. These rare and special books will live on in our hearts and as such deserve a place on everyone’s shelves. Such a book is The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn.

The Kissing Hand was inspired by a true event. Penn had the fortune “to witness a mother raccoon in the wild giving comfort to her newborn cub by opening his tiny hand, nuzzling his paw, and leaving her scent within his grasp.” She then watched the cub place his palm to his face, making in her words “that first important connection with his mother.” A true storyteller, Penn recounted that experience to her first son, then her second son, and later to her daughter. She also sold the story to Humpty Dumpty Magazine. When her final child entered kindergarten, Penn decided to rewrite the story in picture book form–for which the literary world should be grateful.

Any adult can weave tales to entertain a child for a few minutes, but it takes talent to write a story that will become a keepsake, and Penn has that gift. The Kissing Hand starts with the simple but captivating line: “Chester Raccoon stood at the end of the forest and cried.” Immediately I wanted to know why Chester is unhappy. Turns out Chester doesn’t want to go to school, but wishes to stay home with his toys, his friends, and his mom. Instantly I felt a connection. Rare is the child or adult who hasn’t wanted to stay home surrounded by everything and everyone who is familiar, instead of embracing a strange and potentially uncomfortable new situation. At first his mom simply tries to reassure Chester by holding his paw and telling his that he’ll find new toys, make new friends, and experience new adventures. While these actions are a start, she’s a smart enough mom to know that something else will be needed, and so she shares with Chester the secret of the kissing hand.

The colorful illustrations are by Ruth E. Harper and Nancy M. Leak. Harper is a self-taught artist from England who approached Penn back in the days before the internet to ask if she needed an illustrator. Penn loved her drawings and gave her the manuscript for The Kissing Hand. Leak is an American printmaker whose hand-pulled original etchings have won her recognition throughout the United States. Together the two artists have enhanced Penn’s story with tender and pleasant artwork.

SoCal Public Relations surprised me with a 25th anniversary edition of The Kissing Hand. On the front inside is a presentation page, a page for special memories. On the back inside is a letter from the author, a sheet of The Kissing Hand stickers, and a code for a free download of Letters to Chester. The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn will become a keepsake.


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