Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale....

Knuffle Bunny : a cautionary tale

     After seeing my student's repeatedly check out books from the Knuffle Bunny series I decided to read one for myself. The first one that I came across in my school library was Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale. It has the rare quality to be one of those books that makes you laugh out loud when you read it and smile every time you think about it. It relates to young children, older siblings, and any adult who has ever dealt with a toddler.

     The story started simply enough--Dad and Trixie go on a errand...with Knuffle Bunny in tow. They pass some wonderful places; the neighborhood, the park, the school and finally the laundromat. Trixie helped her daddy with all sorts of chores there and when they are done they leave. Everything is a wonderful adventure until a block later when Trixie realized something is wasn't right. With a panicked look on her face, she tells her father "Aggle Flaggle Klabble!"
Dad failed to realize that Knuffle Bunny is missing and that Trixie is entering melt down mode. She repeatedly tried to talked to dad--"Aggle, Flaggle, Klabble! Blaggle plabble!, Wumby flappy?!, snurp." Then he uttered the infamous words that have pressed the go button on a million toddler break downs-- "Now, please don't get fussy," and that pushed Trixie over the edge into full blown melt down mode. She wailed then she did the most famous toddler move ever "She went boneless."
Everyone, including dad knew that she is UNHAPPY!!! When they finally get home, mom saved the day with one simple question, "Where's Knuffle Bunny?" The family raced past the neighborhood, the park, the school and to the laundromat. A frantic search for Knuffle Bunny ensued with no results. Dad took one look at Trixie's wobbly lip and decided he needs to look even harder......backing out of a washer he saves the day with Knuffle Bunny in hand. The world is right again.

     There are so many great moments in this story it's hard to know where to begin. Mo Willems is an expert at using both the words and illustrations tell the story. I loved how the book opens with end papers that have multiple drawings of Knuffle Bunny peering hopeless out the door of a washing machine. As a parent you remember the stress of having to wash a child's special love toy. Counting down the minutes till the dryer would stop so that your child would never know it was missing.  Every child can relate to that special love thing that makes everything in the world okay and safe. They can feel the terror of realizing that the love thing is missing. I think Mo Willems uses the end papers to help assure children that Knuffle Bunny is not truly lost just a little misplaced. As a parent I have been through this exact drama with a missing blankie. Looking back, the crazy search is actually very comedic yet at the time it was full on panic. Next Mo Willems uses a unique style of cartoon-like characters drawn on top of black and white photographs of Brooklyn. At first it seems a little odd but after a while you actually see Trixie and her family as real people in a real setting. He puts pictures of the parents on their wedding day, in the hospital after Trixie is born, and a hysterical picture of the parents with a bugged Trixie stuffed in a baby front carrier across from the title page so you understand that this is a loving family. After that I found Trixie's toddler break down hysterical. The limited language skills of a toddler totally break down in a crisis. Your life with frantic communication that makes no sense. Mo Willems illustrations capture perfectly the frustration that Trixie feels as dad doesn't understand the drama that is about to unfold. When words fail her, she starts to pull the toddler power move crying. When that fails to achieve the needed results she does the ultimate toddler power move..."boneless". Every parent faced the infamous "boneless" toddler where a child melts into a puddle and is impossible to pick up, stand up, or carry. Finally after all the drama, it warms my heart at the end of the story when dad sets his jaw, pushes up his sleeve and decides to look even harder. He loves Trixie and will do anything to make her happy again. Super Dad to the Knuffle Bunny rescue!

     After reading this story I totally understand why it won was a 2005 Caldecott Honor book. Mo Willems uses his skill as an illustrator, author, and parent to create a funny insightful picture book.

     Mo Willems has a very interesting career in children's television. Learn more about him at his web site!

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