Rissy No Kissies is the perfect book to begin talking to children about consent. This is a must-have for your shelves!
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Rissy No Kissies is a gift to parents and educators!
If you want to have a conversation with your kids about affection and consent but don’t know where to begin, welcome to your new best book-friend. Rissy No Kissies, written by Katey Howes and illustrated by Jess Engle, is a must have for your collections!
Rissy No Kissies is the sweet story of a lovebird who is quite different from others. Why? This little bird does not like to be kissed!
RELATED: Looking for more of our favorite stories? Check out our awesome lists of all the best children’s books!
Though lovebirds typically enjoy affection, Rissie is not a fan. In fact, she squeaks emphatically, “no kissies!” if another bird tries to get too close! This, as you can imagine, causes lots of drama among the other affectionate birds. After all, lovebirds love kisses. They are lovebirds, for goodness sake! Poor Rissie is confused.
Rissy isn’t the only one left in a tizzy. No one understands Rissy’s frenzy when it comes to being on the receiving end of a little kiss. Maybe Rissy’s sick? Or maybe she just doesn’t understand the rest of her family and friends? Perhaps – eek! – she is simply a mean little lovebird?
Poor Rissy tries to tell those around her that she simply isn’t comfortable with kisses, yet this huge chasm setting her apart from the other lovebirds makes her awfully upset. Kisses don’t just make Rissy feel weird, but worried and wrong too.
When Rissy finally finds the courage to talk to her mother, mom imparts the most valuable message. She tells Rissy:
“Your body and your heart are yours, and you choose how to share./ You get to pick the ways you want to show us that you care.”
Check out Rissy No Kissies on Amazon and Bookshop!
Rissy No Kissies is parenting gold!
Rissy No Kissies is a gem for making a tough topic easier to discuss. It gives parents an easy, gentle way to begin teaching kids about the importance of consent and bodily autonomy. Not only do people have different ways of showing affection, but we all want to receive affection in ways that makes us feel good. This is not – and will not – be the same for all people.
We’re all guilty of telling our kids to give grandma a kiss hello or an uncle a hug goodbye. Yet, we need to stop this behavior. Affection is not a one size fits all proposition. Rissy No Kissies reminds us to be cognizant of this. It helps children and adults alike recognize they do not need to participate in expected “normal” behaviors that make them feel uncomfortable.
Rissy No Kissies also includes fantastic back matter for both children and caregivers. For children, the information is relevant but sensitive. From teaching kids that their bodies are their own and they decide how to touch and be touched, to using their voices to say “l don’t like that,” Howes gives practical information with a perfect, light touch.
For the caregiver, Rissy No Kissies provides thoughtful insight on bodily autonomy, consent, boundaries and sensory processing. I love the notion of “ask and respect” (ask what touch a child prefers, and respect the answer). Most importantly, I love the way the back matter helps caregivers teach even the youngest of children that “stop” and “no” are key words to help kids effectively communicate boundaries.
A Chat with Rissy No Kissies’ Author, Katey Howes
Upon the publication of Rissy No Kissies, I spoke with the book’s brilliant author, Katey Howes, for a short Q& A session. What an honor! Some of our discussion follows.
Q: Consent is a tough subject. It’s one many writers are scared to tackle and parents are nervous to discuss. What made you decide to write a picture book on this topic?
A: Rissy No Kissies didn’t actually start with “consent,” so much as it did with affection.
I have three kids who all show affection in very different ways. One will hug and snuggle and kiss all day long. One does not like to be touched much at all, but makes songs, stories and art to show she cares. And one will curl up beside you for hours, but can’t stand kisses.
At first, as a new parent, I worried about this. I wondered if I was doing something wrong, or if there was something wrong with my kids. Those weren’t great thoughts or feelings to have, and as I dug into them, I realized that there was no good reason to think or feel them. The research is clear: it is absolutely normal for people to like and dislike different types of touch.
And why wouldn’t it be? We like different music, different colors, different foods. Of course we like different touches! We’ve just been socialized to accept certain ones as normal, or even required, when that’s not really healthy – or fair.
I realized there were many other parents and caregivers like me, who needed that message reinforced. And even more so, we needed a way to communicate it to kids! Kids need to know unequivocally that there is nothing wrong with turning down a hug, or disliking a kiss, or saying no to tickles. Children deserve to be given love and to give love in the ways that feel best to them.
Q: Why did you decide to use anthropomorphic animal characters rather than people in Rissy No Kissies?
A: I really appreciate this question! All my other published books, and most of what I write, feature human characters. I think it’s vitally important for readers to see themselves in books. But for this story, my editor and I knew we were exploring deep and difficult emotions. There are moments where the main character, Rissy, feels rejected and misunderstood by the people she cares about most. That is a LOT for a young child to process and relate to.
We wanted kids to be able to come back to the story again and again, to find comfort and agency in it . But this meant we needed to balance the discomfort with positive elements. Using lovebirds rather than human characters provides both cuteness (I mean, come ON, they are SO adorable!) and emotional distance. The rhyme and repetition also give kids comfort, by providing a sense of predictability and control.
Q: What would you say to parents who believe their kids are “too young” for this type of book about consent, or who believe this subject isn’t appropriate for our youngest readers?
A: Here’s the thing – we keep saying consent is a tough topic, or a mature topic, because many of us were brought up to associate the word first and foremost with sex and dating and even rape and assault. We think it’s too adult for kids. Too scary or icky. But we have to change that misconception; consent is so much more universal than that.
Consent is about respect and autonomy. If we start teaching early on that consent means we all have the right to determine what happens to our own bodies and that we all must respect others’ wishes about their bodies, suddenly, it’s not a mature or controversial topic anymore. It’s common sense.
If we can raise a generation of kids who feel comfortable communicating their boundaries, that’s going to build healthier relationships from childhood to adulthood.
If we can raise kids who ask before they touch, that’s going to create safer spaces in school, work, and the community.
Finally, if we can raise kids who don’t feel guilty or conflicted or left out when their preferences are different from those of parents, friends, or loved ones, that’s going to build self-esteem and comfort.
Teaching consent – that can change the world.
Q: How do you think RISSY NO KISSIES will empower children and families?
I think Rissy No Kissies shows children that people show love in their own ways, and there is no one right or wrong way to do so. It reinforces that they can use their voice to communicate their preferences and boundaries. And it makes it clear that the best way to know what someone likes is to ask – and respect the answer! Together, those messages give kids a sense of autonomy – a recognition that they are in charge of their bodies! It takes away any feelings of guilt or obligation to show love in an “accepted” way, and it teaches them to treat others with the same consideration. For families, this allows for much more open communication and supportive, accepting relationships.