The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn is a picture book that was read to me as a child many times. The story follows a raccoon and his mother as he is about to head to school for the first time. The young raccoon is nervous about leaving and heading to school but the mother is there to reassure the child that he will have a good time and that school is important. So the mother raccoon kisses the raccoon’s hand and says for him to press his hand to his cheek when he misses her and she will be there. In the end the child raccoon repays the same favor and kisses the mom’s hand and heads off to school confidently. This book is appropriate for children to know that their parent’s love will always be with them no matter where they stray. A parent is a guide for a child to show them the way and then let them make their own mistakes after being taught lessons. I don’t think the book is too tame because it properly shows children that parents love them in a way that they can understand at that age.
Locke would say that the mother was right in encouraging her child to go to school and be independent because “Sheepishness and ignorance of the world, the faults imputed to a private education, are neither the necessary consequences of being bred at home, nor if they were, are they incurable evils”. Only if a child has a good private tutor and a home where many people come to interact with the child is a private education a good way to raise a child according to Locke. A child needs proper social interactions in order to gain a clear understanding of the world around them. Locke values education highly and the raccoon mom also saw the value in education and insisted in her child going to school despite her child’s initial fear.
Love and compassion from parents is showed in William Blake’s “The Little Black Boy”. Blake’s poem says:
“My mother taught me underneath a tree,
And, sitting down before the heat of day,
She took me on her lap and kissed me,”
This is just like the relationship between the raccoons. The mother taught the child all she could in preparation to go and be independent and then points out the world around them to show them they should experience it. Blake expresses the love from parents and how their important lessons and love can be used in their approach to the world.
Blake also talks about children not wanting to go to school in his poem “The Schoolboy” specifically in this stanza:
“How can the bird that is born for joy
Sit in a cage and sing?
How can a child, when fears annoy,
But droop his tender wing,
And forget his youthful spring?”
The child in this poem is experiencing the same fear and anxiousness as the raccoon of not wanting to go to school. There are many fears of going to school and the raccoon and the schoolboy feel trapped by having to go somewhere and not be able to be young and care free.
I think that with their literature, both Penn and Blake are expressing the value in loving and teaching children so they can experience the world around them and the nervousness of going to school.
Strasburger would definitely look at how Audrey Penn showed overcoming the fear of going to school by looking at the way she presented this advice to children. Strasburger said that children’s “evaluations were strongly affected by the character’s physical appearance” in media forms and that children “generally rated the ugly character as mean and the attractive character as nice” (20). So it was only fitting more Audrey Penn to make her characters cute little raccoons. Every child would think that these animals were harmless little creatures and therefore would be effective in communicating the message to children. Media is all about how it is presented to children. Strasburger gave the example of how younger children were frightened by E.T. even though he was a harmless creature but the child could not interpret them because they are influenced by society to question a character that appears that way. The raccoons are effective and only help apply the message of the story. If the story had been with characters that looked frightening, there would be no way the child would get a positive meaning from the story, even if the words were exactly the same. Strasburger was very adamant in pointing that out in his article.
Overall The Kissing Hand shows the love and encouragement of a parent as a child ventures off into the world to socialize with peers. The Enlightenment did focus on children being well-bred and being a mold so that they would be better off in the world. The raccoon mother made sure her child was well off with encouragement and love. The Kissing Hand does show a more modern approach to molding a child by not constricting a child into a mold but by encouragement.