Author: Audrey Penn
Illustrator: Ruth E. Harper and Nancy M. Leak
Publisher: Child & Family Press
Audience: The publisher’s intended audience is ages 3-10. (I went a little high on the age for this not because I think 8-10 year olds will necessarily want to read this book, but because for older children who read this book previously, a reference to the “kissing hand” may evoke the associated lessons and feelings and could be helpful with children who remain fearful of being away/in new situations). The faith talk questions are intended to be used with parents.
Summary: A young raccoon (Chester) is afraid of going to school for the first time and being away from home and his mother. In order to allay his fears his mother kisses the center of his paw and tells him that her kiss goes with him wherever he is and he can press it to his face to feel its warmth and love whenever he feels scared or alone. Chester then kisses his mother’s paw to leave a kiss with his love for her before he scampers off to school.
Literary elements at work in the story: Although this is a fantasy wherein raccoons are given human attributes, the story itself is very realistic for children. The setting is the woodlands and it is depicted as a non-threatening place for children. Children will easily identify with Chester and his fears of going away to night school. The repetition of the kissing of the hand coming from both the mother and from Chester allows the child to see that love is both received and given as both perspectives are represented. The image of the hand (or paw) is excellent since children and their caregivers are already in possession of all that they need to enact this story for themselves.
Perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/abilities: The emphasis in this book is more on relationships that are based in love than about a particular group or culture. The perspective is from a young raccoon (child) who is facing change or loss and is therefore applicable across boundaries.
Scripture: Romans 8: 38-39; John 3: 16; John 15: 12
Theology: For young children the idea of God is very difficult to grasp in terms other than the already familiar and comfortable. God as a divine parent is an appropriate interpretation for this age group. For children in stable environments, God’s image as loving and accepting is easy to imagine. For children in unstable environments, reassuring them that God is someone who loves them always in all situations at all times gives them the good news they desperately need.
All of the passages selected emphasize that God’s love is more than we can imagine or hold or calculate in any way. They speak of God’s love in terms of its ability to abide with us and be steadfast and that nothing can separate us from God’s love. The ultimate expression of God’s love is God’s saving action in Christ whom he sent for the salvation of his children.
God asks us to respond to God’s love with love. As God loves us without reserve or measure, so we are asked to also love God and to love one another, thus perpetuating and enacting the commandment in our lives. God’s love is a gift; therefore it is both given and received and we are enabled through God’s love to give love to others and to let others express their Christian love for us. In this way we are obeying and honoring God and living out the life in Christ we are called to live.
Faith Talk Questions (for parents):
- Remembering when you were a child, was there a particular event that represented change for you that made you particularly scared? (going to school, camp, even to stay with a parent who is remarried/living with someone) Try to imagine which event(s) facing your child(ren) might bring up these fears and ask them to tell you how it makes them feel when they think about it.
- Have there been any traditions (“secrets”) like the kissing hand in your family? (a teddy bear handed down, a special blanket or trinket) How could this story relate to your family’s tradition? What significance did you place on the item? Could it be “re-imagined” in line with this story’s message? Ask your children what it means to them to have that item with them and discuss it in conjunction with this book.
- When you were little how did you imagine God in relation to you or your family? Was God loving and comforting or was God feared (in an unhealthy way)? How have your ideas about God been transferred to your child? Would they relate to the idea of God who is with them always and loves them always? In what ways does your family foster the idea that we cannot be separated from God’s love? How would this story help you explain that concept to your child?
Review prepared by Nadine Ellsworth-Moran, MDiv/MACE, Entering Cohort Fall 2004
The Kissing Hand by Storypath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.