Book Review: The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn

Today I spent several hours at Barnes and Noble in Fresno doing market research for both picture books and romance.  I’ll describe that experience later.  Tonight I want to share the most touching book I have read, The Kissing Hand.  Written in 1993, I missed it since I stopped teaching kindergarten in 1985, so it was new to me today.

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Chester Raccoon does not want to go to kindergarten.  His wise mother tells him that we all have to do things we don’t want to do, but has a secret to share with him.

Chester is sad

Chester stops crying long enough to check out the secret.  Mom kisses his palm and tells him that he can touch his face with his hand and get the kiss any time he feels lonely or afraid.

Mommy and Chester

Chester loves his hand.   In the end Chester takes his mother’s hand and leaves her with a kissing hand to treasure in his absence.  Mom loves his gift and needs it as much as he did.

Trying to limit my books to 500 words is torture.  I was sure this emotional tale used many more words, but no, Penn packed tremendous love into merely 488 words.  However, at the end is a letter from the author, a must read for adults.  It turns out that this story stemmed from her experience observing a mother raccoon and her baby in the wild.  Mommy Raccoon actually imprinted her scent on baby in a touching move as the illustrations show us, twenty years later.

My goal is to write something this touching and helpful.  You must give this book to someone you love, and need to leave, no matter what their age.  The Kissing Hand – remember it!

Chester toy

Blurbs for Manny’s Picture Book

I am on my fifth draft of the picture book I wrote about Manny last week.  Can I Sleep Over at Justin’s Tonight?  499 words  This week we had to write merchandising blurbs. I thought I’d share them with you.

Manny's messy room

Back Cover Blurb (60 words)

 Manny wants to sleep over at Justin’s house.  First he has to clean his room.  Blocks and cars tumbled across the floor.  He bounced on his clean clothes folded on his bed.  He found peanuts and candy under the bed.  He ate peanuts and threw shells out the window. Would he get his room clean and sleep over at Justin’s?

Comment from my instructress.

“This is on the right track, but the room-cleaning dominates over his emotional need.”

Marketing Blurb (151 words)

In Can I Sleepover at Justin’s Tonight?  Manny learns cleanliness and perseverance.  This humorous, fiction cautionary tale stars naughty six-year-old, Manny and his best friend, Justin.  Justin invites him to sleep over, but Manny knows the answer before he asks.   He lies twice to Justin about why he can’t come.  He wants to go to Justin’s house, but the job of cleaning his room overwhelms him, and he’d rather play around.  Justin sees through his lies.  Manny eventually tells Justin that he can’t go anywhere until he cleans his room.  Knowing how dirty his friend’s room is, Justin comes over to help.  The boys solve toy storage problems.  They learn the secret to shutting the dresser drawer.  Most of all they have fun while they make the room sparkle.  Mom is pleased that Manny earns the right to spend the night over at Justin’s and offers them homemade cookies.

How do these blurbs work in making you want to buy the book?

Here is my teacher’s blurb.

“Manny can’t go anywhere until he cleans his room so Justin comes over to help.  The boys pack away the toys, learn the secret to shutting the dresser drawer, but most of all they have fun while they make the room sparkle.  Mom is pleased that Manny earns the right to spend the night over at Justin’s.”  57 words

What Kind of Animal Are You?

People love animals.  Popular picture book writers use this adoration. Children and adults alike identify with real and stuffed animals.  One of my writing groups asked the question, “If you were an animal, what kind would you be? Why?”

PG Prancing 1r

I love dogs, cats, and guinea pigs because they have been my favorite pets.

Piggles eating copy 1t

This prompt reminded me of teaching strategy called Four Corners we practiced in a teacher training seminar.  Each corner had a white piece of poster paper with the name of the animal written at the top.  Participants went to the corner that represented the animal with which they most closely identified:  gorilla/monkey, lion, snake or rabbit.

I chose rabbit because none of the others appealed to me.  As we defended our choices with other participants who had chosen the same animal, I developed an affinity with the rabbit.

Bunny 1crt

First we listed characteristics of the animal we chose, real, stuffed and pictures. Here are my random thoughts today.

Rabbits:

  • reproduce prolifically, so it is doubtful they will be endangered.
  • are soft and fuzzy
  • are cute
  • usually make good pets (I hated mine.  He was “wrascally.”)
  • make good stuffed animals
  • make good stories – The Velveteen Rabbit as an example
  • kick hard
  • Bugs Bunny
  • have good luck feet
  • are not dangerous to humans compared to a venomous snake, gorilla, or lion
  • have their own year  I was born in the year of the rabbit.
  • are in the moon
  • are sensitive to the underworld, to vibrations and sensations humans can not detect
  • don’t need light to guide their way
  • are symbols of the earth, and are close to it
  • easily camouflaged, and therefore safe
  • are “wrascally,” and therefore intelligent.
  • travel in complicated zigzag patterns  Don’t try to catch one!
  • always know an escape route
  • defend their territory against other pets
  • are tucked in and self-composed

In the next part of this exercise we determined which of the other three animals would be OUR most fearsome enemy and why. Our group determined that lions were probably most dangerous to the rabbits since they are avid carnivores.

Finally we decided which animal would make the best ally.  I can’t remember which we chose, but personally I would prefer an alliance with a monkey or gorilla and not a snake.  Snakes can travel on and under the ground as well as hang from trees.  If I am enjoying my underground home, I don’t want a snake slithering in on me in the middle of my private family moments.  I’m not sure that I would trust a large hungry snake not to mistake me for a mouse, and try to eat me for dinner.

I hate to admit it, but I am prejudiced against reptiles because they don’t have fur.  Mammals are more my type.  I identify better with critters with feet, since mine are so lucky.

A monkey, however, is crafty and smart, like me, but has the agility of swinging from trees.  The monkey could help me watch out for dangers from above, while I protect him or her from things on the ground.

As a girl with a harelip, I couldn’t help but choose the rabbit group.  As a child, I never felt ugly because of my mouth unless some rude stranger pointed it out.  I had far more serious physical failings that caused me great pain as a young teen.  I wore a triple A padded bra.  🙂  I didn’t need my harelip to feel insecure.

So if you too have had physical failings, I’ll leave you with a famous quote from the Velveteen Rabbit, that I find heartening.

“Once you are real, you can’t be ugly except to people who don’t understand.”

Margery Williams

Which animal would you be, or would you choose a different one altogether?

Black and White Sunday: The Friendly Beach

The friendly beach

My brother and I took a side trip to Michigan to see the Warren Dunes where we vacationed once as kids.  I wasn’t inspired to return.  I’m sure it must have better days.  This was a bad beach day.  Click on widget to participate in Paula’s challenge.

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For the Love of Valentine’s Day

Day 44 My Five Hundred Words Challenge.

Prompt:

It’s Valentine’s Day.
Maybe you think this is a manufactured Hallmark holiday, or you might really believe in the magic of love.
Romantic love is the big cliché for today. So let’s talk about a different kind of love, instead. A love that isn’t all Cupid and conversation hearts.
 Write about a time when love meant stepping out of your comfort zone, making a hard choice, or offering up a sacrifice.

As my blogging friends know, I’ve been writing my first romance/comedy novel since November.   Rewrite number five brings me to this episode that my friend Tonia Hurst suggested that I share with you today for Valentine’s Day.  Valentine’s Day knows no gender in love.  In kindergarten you learn that valentines are for everyone in the room.

Three friends, Trixie, Ann, and Sarah, went to Sarah’s condo for the weekend, where a series of misadventures struck. One disaster landed Sarah in the hospital, and brought Trixie’s new love, Nick, to visit from Southern California.   Today Trixie arises at 6:30 am, leaves the love of her life sleeping in HIS room, and drives 15 miles to the hospital to see her friend.

I don’t know that I would have picked this as a romantic moment, but you can decide for yourself.

Characters:

Trixie:  unmarried friend in love with Nick

Sarah:  widowed friend always on the go, collapsed and had to go to the emergency room

Howdy Doody:  The nickname given to the nephrologist (kidney doctor) called in by the emergency room physician to run tests on Sarah.

Howdy Doody 3
Dr. Howdy Doody

Chapter Thirty-four

After Howdy Doody left, Sarah leaned back in the bed and adjusted the pillows.  Trixie walked up to Sarah’s bed, and sat down.

“Can you believe Howdy Doody getting in my face like that?  I’m bushed after that encounter.   He sure thinks he can push his weight around.”

“You sure gave us a scare, Sarah.  No wonder you were tired!  Sounds as though he’s targeting the sodas.  What a cutie.  I wonder if he is married.”

Howdy Doody 2

“Trixie, you enjoy playing Cupid now that he’s shot you in the heart.  Yeah, Sandstrom’s definitely my type.  He’s at least six feet five inches tall, and I’m only five feet tall when I stand perfectly straight.”

Sun streamed in the hospital room window making patterns on the bed.  Sarah traced them unconsciously as she talked.

“I recognize sarcasm when I hear it.  I think he’s perfect.”

“I need to research.  Can you find me a computer to use?”

“Sure, I’ll send my computer with the twins if they stop by.  You can call me and let me know when they are coming, or better yet, I’ll just leave it on the table.  Where are they?  Did they go out for some breakfast?”

“No, they went back to the condo to sleep.   How was your night?  Did you and Ann have dinner after you left?”

Sarah didn’t know that Ann had left.  Sarah wanted to discuss many things with Trixie, but her breakfast arrived, and she hadn’t eaten since breakfast yesterday.

“It is Sunday, right?” Sarah asked.

“Yes, at least you don’t have Alzheimer’s.”

Trixie was glad she had made it to the room in time to talk to the nephrologist.  Now she wasn’t as concerned that Sarah was not going to make it.  Sarah controlled her life. If Trixie had to bet on any of them living forever, it would be Sarah.

“This breakfast is awful, Trix.  Buy me a cinnamon roll and a decent cup of coffee.”

Old West Cinnamon Rolls, Pismo Beach
Old West Cinnamon Rolls, Pismo Beach

“Is there a better way to say that?  Have you ever heard of the word please, or better yet, would you please?  But the long answer is no.  Don’t draw me into your schemes for bringing you contraband.  I need to shove off.  Remember Nick is at the condo.  He’s not expecting the girls.  No telling what’s happened there.”

“Good idea, Trixie.  Hurry back, though.  I understand now when I hear nursing home residents yelling to get out.  I can’t believe I have to be camped out here when it’s seventy-five degrees and sunny outside.”

“Ok, I’ll touch bases with you later today, Sarah.”  Trixie told her.

“You know, don’t come back today.  Enjoy your time with Nick.  I’ll be fine.  Send the girls back as soon as they wake up.”

Sarah waved to her friend then settled back against the pillows and closed her eyes.  She was still pretty tired, and right this minute rest seemed to be the perfect prescription.

Sarah 1

Girls on Fire visits the editor this weekend, and expects to come home with a few band aids, but hopes to avoid major surgery.  Depending on the damages I’ll need to rebuild, this romantic comedy should be ready soon.

So do you agree with Tonia, that this has some merit for Valentine’s Day to fit this prompt?