I had originally planned to share this book as a recommendation for back to school preparation, especially for kids going into preschool or kindergarten but… as I’m writing this article, most parents and children across the US are planning to begin the school year virtually. But I still really love this book so I’m going to share it anyway and encourage you to check it out now or keep it in mind for the day that our children might (finally) return to school safely.

The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn is a beautifully illustrated story about Chester Raccoon, an adorable woodland kindergartener who is afraid to go to school for the first time. My son was given this book by his preschool teachers when they made a home visit prior to his first day. They wrote a very sweet inscription and four years later, he remembers when they came to our house and brought him this special book. It made him feel more secure about leaving home for the first time and to be honest, it made me feel more comfortable with it, too.

On the day of his first night of school (raccoons being nocturnal and all) Chester asks his mother if he can stay home with her instead but she gives him the sage advice that sometimes, we all have to do things we don’t want to do. But that once he gives school a chance, he’s going to love it.

She tells him all about the new friends he’ll make and the toys he’ll play with. That he’ll read new books and even find another swing to play on. Besides, she tells him, she knows a secret that will help him feel just as safe and happy at school as he is at home.

Chester is still tearful but curious. He wants to know what his mother’s secret is. It turns out that it’s the secret of the Kissing Hand and it’s been passed through the generations of the Raccoon family. His mom asks him to open his palm, which she then kisses. She explains that whenever he feels lonely or needs to feel love from home, to open his hand, press it to his cheek and remember that ‘Mommy loves you’. Chester immediately embraces the idea of the Kissing Hand and feels safe in knowing that while he’s at school, his mom’s love will be with him. 

That evening, Chester and his mom arrive at the school. As the other woodland children stream into the tree trunk where school is held, Chester asks his mom to hold out her hand. He kisses palm just as she’d done for him. He tells her that now she has a Kissing Hand too, and that she misses him, to press her palm to her cheek and remember that ‘Chester loves you’. And with that, he turns and confidently heads into school with the others.

The Kissing Hand is a very simple and sweet story of the impact a small gesture can have when our kids are having a tough time with a new experience. I no longer have to give my son a Kissing Hand (not by choice!) but giving a kiss on the palm each morning of the first month of preschool certainly did make drop offs easier for both of us.

Though we may not be saying goodbye to our little ones in the same way as we anticipated this fall, I still think The Kissing Hand is a valuable addition to any young child’s home library. There are many firsts throughout childhood that can feel intimidating or confusing. Chester’s story of holding his mom’s love in his hand is one that stays true year after year, whether you’re the child or the parent.

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