Knuffle Bunny Free: An Unexpected Diversion
One of Mo Willems' most wonderful talents is that he can tell a story in words that stands alone perfectly well without illustrations, and vice versa: he can tell a story in pictures that need no text. The combination of the two in a picture book always seems to make Willems’ work rise above the crowd’s.
In Knuffle Bunny Free, Trixie is going on an adventure. She’s taking a vacation with her family all the way to Holland to visit her Oma and Opa. It’s so exciting and fascinating to do all the things travelers do (well, for the first time and when you are a child) and to get to go on a real airplane.
After what seems like millennia to Trixie, they finally arrive. And, of course, so does disaster: Knuffle Bunny has been left behind—again. Trixie is so devastated and her father so used to this drama with his daughter’s beloved stuffed animal that Trixie doesn’t even have to tell him what has happened. He just knows. A call to the airlines reveals that it has already left for China—which is “very far away. . . .”
So Trixie puts up a brave front and tries to get through her vacation the best she can, despite the sadness that lingers and seems to color every new event she participates in with her grandparents in Holland.
The experience of being desperately in love with a softy thingie will be one quite familiar to many children. Mo Willems’ juxtaposition of photographs with cartoon-like drawings perfectly conveys the feelings of the protagonist and serves to make the book feel more real and alive than if he had excluded the photographs or used another technique.
Do not despair: all ends well that reads well. In fact, the ending takes Trixie to another level of maturity altogether, which will leave fans already mourning the books about the pair that will not be written—unless (Mr. Willems, are you listening?) we could get a prequel to that first Knuffle Bunny book?
A delightful and funny picture book for the 3–8 year old, Knuffle Bunny Free is well worth picking up again and again.