Warning: This Caldecott Honor book may cause obsession among small children. Be prepared to read it aloud many many many times.
Ah... Knuffle Bunny. What a wonderful book. It has a pretty simple premise... a little girl (Trixie) loses her stuffed bunny at the laundromat. Doesn't sound like amazing drama, does it?
That's because you haven't read the book. (Or maybe you have.) Mo Willems manages to turn this basic story into a riveting page turner that children can't wait to read again and again and again (and again).
What makes this book so good? So many reasons. First, it's realistic and easy to relate to (ask any parent who has lost their child's favorite stuffed animal). The sentence structure is fairly simple with only one sentence per page (a crucial element in a book for young children). The pacing is excellent and moments of drama are inserted at just the right times. The writing and illustrations are funny, and both adults and children get the jokes. (Every child or adult I've shown this book to has known exactly what going boneless means). I also love how Willems uses every available space to tell his story... the endpapers, the copyright page and the back cover all advance the plot.
I think the real genius is in the illustrations. Vibrant colorful characters are layered over black and white photographs of Brooklyn, New York. My favorite picture (although it's hard to chose just one) would have to be the one accompanying the words "So Trixie's daddy decided to look harder." I love the look on Trixie's daddy's face as he rolls up his sleeves.
This book was recently turned into a short film by Weston Woods Studios. And the movie is as wonderful as the book... and definitely worth checking out at your local library. The real Trixie (Mo Willems' daughter) narrates it along with her parents. It's a perfect combination of still photography and animation... and stays reverently close to the book. The video won the 2007
Andrew Carnegie Medal. Read the bottom of this post for my son's reaction to the movie (and how I felt about watching it again at the Caldecott/Newbery banquet.)
I attended this year's ALSC awards ceremony (where the Carnegie medal was presented). Mo brought his daughter Trixie up to accept it (to huge applause and lots of exclamations of "she's so cute!") He said in his acceptance speech that the book and video are completely true... except for the parts he made up. He did mention that he doctored the background photos (to remove things like overflowing dumpsters.)
Want more knuffle bunny? (Who doesn't?) Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity is coming out in September 2007. Need your own personal knuffle bunny? Check out Yottoy- where you can also get an irascible plush pigeon. Want more Mo Willems? Check out his website and his funny and creative blog, Mo Willems Doodles.
Note for fans of other Mo Willems books: when Trixie, her mommy and her daddy run through the park... they pass a man wearing a white t-shirt. The pigeon from Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus is on the shirt.
Note for pronunciation perfectionists: the title character is pronounced Kuh-nuff-el Bun-ee. The K is not silent because it's a Dutch word.
Read it again?
Update: Check the comments for a few interesting points about the bunny's name.