Amanda McHugh ’18/ Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
When children or adults of any age feel lost and separated, they have often turned to the infamous children’s picture book, The Kissing Hand. The story follows a young raccoon, Chester, as he feels anxiety about going away to school for the first time. In an effort to comfort her young son, Mrs. Raccoon presents him with a secret she calls the kissing hand. After placing a kiss in the center of Chester’s palm, she reassures him that no matter where he is, her love will always be with him as long as he holds his mother’s kiss against his cheek. Chester returns the favor to his mother giving her a ‘kissing hand,’ and no longer feeling as upset about leaving home, he is able to go to school.
Originally told to children in hospitals and schools, The Kissing Hand was finally written down by Audrey Penn in 1993, illustrated by Ruth E. Harper and Nancy M. Leak, and first published by the Child Welfare League of America. Since then, it has been listed with the ‘Teachers’ Top 100 Books for Children’, ‘Top 100 Picture Books’ of all time, translated in multiple different languages, and has been read to countless children around the world. Penn has also received numerous awards for the book including New York Times best seller, and the Distinguished Achievement Award for Excellence in Educational Journalism. Penn wrote five sequels with Chester, with A Pocket Full of Kisses also making the New York Times best seller.
The Kissing Hand is often used for children who have to deal with any type of separation anxiety. This ranges anywhere from going to school or camp, leaving home for the first time, entering into foster care, and even the death of a loved one. Penn would often tell the story of Chester Raccoon to children in schools, libraries, and hospitals. Though intended for children, fearful teenagers and adults alike have used the book to ease various types of apprehension.
In 2004, the United States army purchased 14,000 copies of the book for soldiers across seas to read on video and transmit it back home. The American Library Association also had heavily recommended the book after September 11, 2001 to help ease the pain and distraught many children and adults felt during the time. The book has helped countless children and adults deal with separation. Whether temporary or permanent, the kissing hand technique provides someone with comfort and security. Especially for those feeling homesick at college or boarding school, just by pressing the hand to the cheek and being reminded of a loved one is a perfect way to end a bad day and feel consoled.
The Kissing Hand is a classic children’s novel that continues to remain a staple in many kids’ picture book collection. The timeless tale of Chester and his mother continue to warm hearts and bring back old memories. With just a kiss on the hand and love in the heart, any one at any age will be able to enjoy this everlasting story.