February 07, 2012

A mother’s love, sealed with a kiss

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Based on the real-life story of a special box that linked a mother and son, The Kiss Box is a sweet and simple picture book about a love so strong that distance can’t diminish it. This nostalgic charmer—reminiscent of mother-child classics like The Runaway Bunny—will pull at the heartstrings of any mother separated from a child and reassure any little one who is anxious about Mama’s departure.

In an author’s note, Bonnie Verburg explains that the inspiration for the story came from a “remarkable gift” her son received when he was very young. Verburg is a longtime children’s book editor and her son’s godparents were the noted author-illustrator duo Audrey and Don Wood. The Woods presented Verburg’s son with a small jar, to be filled with kisses and used as a reminder of love when mother and son were apart. Years later, after the kiss jar became dented and worn, Verburg made a “kiss box” for her son to take on a long trip.

In Verburg’s new picture book, delightfully illustrated by Henry Cole (Jack’s Garden, A Nest for Celeste), Mama Bear informs her Little Bear that she is going away on a short trip. The uneasy look on Little Bear’s face tells the story: This little guy isn’t happy about Mama’s departure and will need plenty of loving encouragement before they part.

Mama takes her son on a picnic and patiently explains that they can send love to each other even when they’re separated. “I can’t stay home,” Mama Bear tells him. “But I can leave you a hundred kisses to keep you company. And every time you miss me, you will have all those kisses.”

Little Bear makes his own special container for Mama’s kisses and goes to sleep clutching the box, safe in the knowledge that she is thinking of him wherever she is.

The soothing outdoor scenes where much of the book is set are lovingly depicted by Cole, who used childhood memories of a favorite spot (his uncle's farm) as inspiration. Butterflies, birds and turtles hover nearby as mother and son discuss the upcoming trip and their unbreakable bond.

The tender message of Verburg’s story has timeless appeal. And what could be a better activity for Valentine's Day than making a "kiss box" to share with a child, grandchild or other special little one in your life?

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