Written and illustrated by Selma Mandine, translated by Michelle Williams
Golden Books/Random House, 2009
$9.99, ages 4-8, 32 pages
Ordinarily you wouldn't expect a hardback book to look snuggly, especially one that doesn't have touch-and-feel panels. But Kiss Kiss sure makes you want to nestle up inside of it.
In Kiss Kiss, French author-illustrator Mandine turns the familiar premise, what kisses feel like, into something fresh and irresistible.
Each picture evokes a softness beyond what you'd expect from a book page and leaves you wishing you could feel everything you see.
The Golden Book opens with a rosy-nosed boy in a yellow hooded sleeper asking his pudgy stuffed bear if he knows what a kiss is like.
Then with every page the little boy describes each kiss that he knows.
First it's Mommy's super soft kiss. As Mommy and the boy embrace, his hood becomes a wig of the softest wool and you see heart-shaped clouds float away, carrying the bear and the boy's toy chick blissfully with them.
Daddy's kiss isn't so soft with all of those prickly whiskers on his chin, but it doesn't hurt. It tickles.
As Daddy and the boy giggle in each other's arms, his hood resembles the outside of a cactus, while in the distance his toy alligator sits upright like a saguaro, with the chick perched on its head.
In the next pages, you see Grandpa's kiss turn into strands of cotton candy as his beard envelops the boy in sweet softness, and watch Grandma blowing noisy kisses that transform the boy into a pink musical note.
There is the kiss the boy can see, the chocolate one from little brother Christopher, who forgets to wipe his mouth; the one that makes him blush, from a girl with a polka dot red hoodie; and the sloppy one from his dog that sprays heart-shaped droplets all over his face.
Remembering how much he is loved, the boy beams with happiness, but does Bear really understand what makes a kiss?
Bear, whose stitches are loose from so much cuddling with the boy, isn't so sure he does, but tries to make one anyway.
On the last pages readers find Bear puckering up to them and a sentence for them to finish: "A kiss for …"
Mandine's illustrations are soft and dreamy like those of Italian illustrator Nicoletta Ceccoli (Oscar and the Mooncats, The Girl in the Castle Inside the Museum), and have a sweet silliness that will endear children immediately.
I can't think of a sweeter story to read tonight after my child pulls up his covers.