Audrey Penn's beloved character Chester Raccoon has a new dilemma in A Kiss Goodbye. His family is moving away from the tree that he has known his entire life because the men are coming to cut it down. He has to leave behind his home, his friends and his school. Even his little brother, Ronny, doesn't want to move. When Mother tells him it is going to be an adventure, all he can think of are his misadventures that caused him pain and discomfort. He relives getting pine cones stuck in his tail when he climbed a pine tree and getting smacked by bats when exploring a cave. He wants to just stay put, even if his family leaves him. He realizes that he would be lost without his family, and they without him. So, he goes around his tree, creating sensory memories of it. He closes his eyes as he feels the bark and smells the scent of white oak in the walls. He even gives his tree a Kissing Hand.
Soon after moving into their new tree, Chester meets a new friend named Cassy who has also just moved to this woods. He decides it may not be so bad after all. He and his mother share a Kissing Hand and then he takes off to play with his new friend.
Audrey Penn yet again taps into the feelings of young children in a common situation. It is difficult for anyone to move, let alone young children who can't really understand the reasons. It is a scary thought to leave behind the comfort of familiarity. I like the ideas she gives for making a sensory memory of Chester's home, as that will stick with him forever.
Another interesting aspect of this book is the hint to the problems of deforestation. In a way, it brings a “face” to what happens to the residents of the woods as we continue to tear down their homes. Sure, forest creatures may not go to school, but they do have homes. When we take away their homes, we are disrupting their lives. This book could lay a subtle foundation for later conversation about this topic.
Barbara L. Gibson's illustrations are absolutely beautiful. She has a knack for capturing the personality of Chester Raccoon and the beauty of the forest.
Chester Raccoon's stories are always well-received by my preschool and kindergarten students. Older elementary students have fond memories of reading these books when they were younger. They are always a great addition to any picture book collection. A Kiss Goodbye is no exception.