On a completely different note, today I’d like to post about Mo Willem’s Knuffle Bunny trilogy–“knuffle” being Dutch for “hug” or “cuddle”. For those out of the children’s literature loop, the Knuffle Bunny books follow our heroine Trixie and her beloved stuffed rabbit, Knuffle Bunny, as she grows from a preverbal toddler who cannot manage without her lovey but cannot explain to her father that he’s left it behind to a young girl mature enough to pass her toy along to a younger child who needs the comfort of a lovey more than she. As with many trilogies/series, the subsequent books don’t quite meet the promise of the first, but if the first’s beloved to your kids, you’ll definitely want the second two.
In the first book, Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale, Trixie “helps” her daddy do the laundry at the laundromat and in the process, Daddy inadvertently tosses Trixie’s beloved stuffie, Knuffle Bunny, into the wash along with the clothes. As they proceed home, Trixie realizes that said stuffie Is. Not. There. but is unable to explain to Daddy, himself not fully versed in Toddler, what precisely is wrong. Never fear: Knuffle Bunny is found, somewhat damp, and the story ends with Trixie speaking her first words. In Knuffle Bunny Two: a Case of Mistaken Identity, Trixie is now old enough for preschool and is excited to bring what she believes to be the One and Only Knuffle Bunny to school…only to find that a classmate has the exact same bunny with the exact same name. As you might guess from the title, the two stuffies get swapped during the course of the school day, resulting in the girls’ realizing the error at dark o’clock and a panicked meeting of the bathrobed and unshaven daddies at the girls’ insistence to correct the issue. The third book, Knuffle Bunny Free: an unexpected diversion, has Trixie, now quite the young woman that she’s of approximately school age, traveling with her family to visit her Oma and Opa in Holland…only to inadvertently leave that most beloved stuffie on the plane to China! Bereft, Trixie does her best to buy into her parents’ and grandparents’ assertions that we’ve all lost something similarly beloved and coping with the loss is part of maturation…no, I don’t think I’d have bought it either, but Trixie does manage to eke some enjoyment out of her visit, not least through a dream of Knuffle Bunny flying around the world to meet and bring enjoyment to children abroad. The story ends happily: Trixie discovers KNUFFLE BUNNY! tucked into the seat pocket in front of her on the flight home to New York…and decides to pass her stuffie on to another child, younger than she, who needs the comfort of a stuffed animal.
These strike me as being for slightly older children than Willem’s ‘Pigeon’ and ‘Elephant and Piggie’ series; the artwork–simple cartoon figures overlaid on sepia photographs–are more sophisticated and complex than his other books’ illustrations. Indeed, they seem to be aimed as much at the parents reading the story as at the young audience; the text (and illustrations) include much more of the adults’ reactions to the children’s situation than many children’s books do. That said, I can see their potential for serving as a springboard into aiding kids in dealing with situations they commonly face: “Use your words to tell your parents what’s wrong.”, “You will inevitably ‘get big’ and outgrow things you once held dear…but you will grow into bigger and better things when you do.”
(Someday I’ll figure out how to put in footnotes, images and links! Forgive me for being new to wordpress.)