Friday, December 10, 2010

7. Bye, Bye Knuffle Bunny

Knuffle Bunny FreeAn Unexpected Diversion, written & illustrated by Mo Willems, HarperCollins, ages 4-8, 52 pages. Letting go of a pal who's been in your arm as long as you can remember is tough. But maybe, after awhile without him, moving on isn't so impossible after all. In this final, heart-melting book in Willems's epic, Caldecott-winning love story, Trixie takes Knuffle Bunny on a trip to Holland with her parents and loses him like she's never lost him before. This time, her parents can't go back to a laundromat or call up a classmate's parents to get him. In her excitement to leave the airport and see her grandparent's, "Oma" and "Opa," Trixie forgets Knuffle Bunny on the plane, but not just any plane, a plane that's only half-way to somewhere else. At first Trixie is so distracted by all that's new that she doesn't realize that she's left him behind. Then, sitting in a yard chair at her grandparent's home with a glass of chocolate milk, she notices that something doesn't feel right. That part of her that's always snuggled up close to a pal is empty, and it hits her. Knuffle Bunny is gone.

Trixie drifts into her grandparents' kitchen with huge saucer eyes and her daddy knows immediately what's wrong. Daddy, who's been there so many times before, goes into emergency mode and calls the airline. But before anyone can even look on the plane, the plane's taken off to China. Trixie's mommy pulls Trixie to her lap and asks her to be brave and her daddy tries to comfort her with a story about the "Special Lamby" he once gave up. Then Oma offers Trixie another glass of chocolate milk and marvels at how big Trixie's getting. She's right, Trixie thinks to herself, and though she's still sad inside, she'll try to be happy. But then Oma and Opa surprise her with a walking, talking, Dutch-speaking pink bunny, the top-of-the-line Funny-Bunny-Wunny-Doll Extreme, and Trixie feels as sad as ever. It isn't until Trixie dreams that night about Knuffle Bunny and all the children he might meet on his travels that she starts to feel better. Buoyed by the thought of Knuffle Bunny being cared for, Trixie is suddenly cast free of having to have him. The next day is a great day and by the time the trip's over, Trixie's thinking more about how much she'll miss Oma and Opa. But funny things happen when you least expect them and that day when they get on the plane to go back to New York, guess who's waiting in the seat pocket in front of her? Of course, the second that Trixie sees Knuffle Bunny, she shouts his name with joy. But what's all the crying about in the seat behind her? It's hard to be happy when someone else is so sad. Doesn't that sweet little baby have a Knuffle Bunny of his own? Tender and sweet, this last book shows that's its OK to let go of a special toy, and sometimes, knowing that another child needs your pal even more than you do, makes it just a little easier to say goodbye.

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