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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Fuse 8 n’ Kate: The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn, Ruth E. Harper & Nancy M. Leak

If there’s one thing I know, it’s that there are two kinds of picture books that are most often divisive: the message-y books and the sweet and fuzzies. Combine the two and you get The Kissing Hand. There is NO doubt that the book is loved deeply by Kindergarten teachers, but would you call it a picture book classic worthy of keeping on shelves for decades to come? I really didn’t know how Kate would react to this one when I handed it to her. Would she be charmed? Be appalled? As ever, Kate surprises me. She’s good at that.

Listen to the whole show here on Soundcloud or download it through iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, PlayerFM, or your preferred method of podcast selection.

Show Notes:

  • Honestly, if you know why there used to be two illustrators associated with this book and then, later, only illustrator Ruth E. Harper was mentioned on the book’s website, please let us in on the story.
  • “Did I leave the gas on?” Twenty points if you get the reference.
  • I dunno. I mean, they’re forest creatures, right? All things being equal, if they want to read books with titles like Friends and Woods Babies, who am I to judge, right?
  • This would be the querulous opposum. I had to look the word up to see if I used it correctly. Ah . . . yeah . . . suuuuuuure I did . . .
  • We do like that there’s some American Sign Language at work here.
  • Sucks to be that fawn attending this school. We imagine it’s probably yelling half the time, “I can’t hear what you’re saying!!” Sidenote, do foxes climb trees?
  • I’m not wrong. This is a REALLY good illustration of an owl here.
  • Yep. On the Top 100 Picture Books Poll it came in at #95.
  • Here’s the link to Letters to Chester, which is entirely free and online for you.
  • Want to cook up some Kissing Hand cookies of your own? I think this one with Hershey’s Kisses makes a lot of sense.
  • Here it is, just in case you didn’t believe me. The one and only I Wish Daddy Didn’t Drink So Much by Judith Vigna.
  • And finally, here is the book trailer for Fabulous Monsters by Alberto Manguel:
About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. Ruth E Harper says:

    Hello, and thanks for the ‘show’ and the kudos! Glad you consider it a warm & fuzzy 🙂
    You sure did your homework breaking the images down. Impressed!
    I’m here to just answer your first question. I have a brief answer on my website – and it goes like this:
    The author and I met, and she asked me to illustrate a 24 page book. I did. But no publisher was biting. A year and half later the author still didn’t have a contract but asked me for 8 more paintings. I declined until we got a contract, so I could add to it IF they wanted more pages. Instead, she found a publisher and paid Nancy Leak to fill in-between mine to make it 32 pages. I found this out AFTER the book was already sold/under contract. Needless to say, I got no royalties.
    So you see it’s a bit of a twisted story, but, you know, life isn’t always warm and fuzzy (but we survive).
    And it’s all about the comfort children and parents receive from the book after all, isn’t it? I’m crazy blessed by it 🙂

    • Oh, thank you!! Wow, and straight from the source no less. I’ll read your response on our next recording so that our listeners understand as well.

      But wait . . . do you mean to tell me that you have, after all these years, NEVER received any royalties for this book? None?!?
      You are awfully good natured about this. I’m going to go get angry on your behalf.

  2. Heather Hall says:

    I love when the two of you dis saccharine kids’ books! I love children’s literature and have a huge picture book collection, a large part of which I get secondhand when I come across titles I recognize or think look interesting. “The Kissing Hand” made it into my collection, and then back out again, though it did not leave the lasting yucky impression that “I Love You Forever” did after it left my collection. I do not understand the fervent devotion, to either of these tities, that I have heard from people I otherwise respect. But I do agree with Betsy that Ruth E Harper’s owl illustration is gorgeous. I do hope Harper got royalties eventually. Her contributions to the book were the best part.

    On a different subject, I enjoy reading seasonal books to my kids and I agree that good Thanksgiving books are hard to find, especially since most (if not all) of the first Thanksgiving books give a very biased, one-sided account. BUT I have come across a few books we like. One is Eve Bunting’s “How Many Days to America: A Thanksgiving Story” (illustrated by Beth Peck). It is a the story of refugees coming to America and arriving on Thanksgiving, drawing a parallel between early immigration stories to more recent ones. Another great one is “Thank you, Sarah: The Woman who Saved Thanksgiving” by Laurie Halse Anderson and Matt Faulkner. This is our family favorite. It tells the story of the woman activist who spend 38 years writing thousands of letters to try to make Thanksgiving a national holiday. My daughter and I especially love it for its feminist message. For silly, we like “Turkey Trouble” by Wendi Silvano and Lee Harper. “Balloons over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade” is a an absolute treat visually but a little hard to read aloud.

    • These are brilliant suggestions. Thank you! I’ll see if I can’t get them onto the podcast we’re recording tonight. I’d not remembered How Many Days to America. It would be an interesting one to revisit, I think. But these are all good. Cheers!

  3. Twas the night before Thanksgiving by Dav Pilkey!!! With Farmer McNugget – total classic! Judith Vigna specialized in the “problem” picture book – haven’t u heard of ‘Nobody wants nuclear war’? Perhaps a good 1 to discuss is Steptoe’s “My Daddy is a monster sometimes”.

  4. Ruth E Harper says:

    You are correct about royalties, Elizabeth.

    On the thanksgiving books – Wendy Sylvano, author of Turkey Trouble, is a friend and a hoot! I bet she’d chat with you on this!