- Craig Graziano
All good things must come to an end. This includes books, toys, and especially books about toys. After two previous adventures of missing bunny mayhem, Mo Willems has gracefully ended one of his strongest series with Knuffle Bunny Free.
The first two Knuffle (pronounced ca-nuffle) Bunny books, young Trixie and her parents deal with the loss and determined effort to find her favorite stuffed animal. It’s a fairly straightforward conflict that parents immediately recognize. Trixie was a baby in the first volume, and school age in the second effort. This last installment visits her a few years later on a trip to Holland to visit her grandparents. This time, Trixie leaves her beloved rabbit on the plane.
Willem’s illustrations are notably straightforward and sparse. In books like his Elephant and Piggy series, the characters often stand in front of a blank background, allowing the reader to focus on the characters. Similarly, the Knuffle Bunny opted for hand-drawn characters placed over beautiful black and white photographs. Trixie, Knuffle Bunny, and her parents pop off of the page with great vibrancy.
But it is the emotional storyline of Knuffle Bunny Free that will keep you thinking about the book long after you have read it. Like before, Trixie is utterly devastated when she realizes that leaving Knuffle Bunny on the plane isn’t like misplacing him in the laundry or at school. Her acceptance of this fact is an incredibly mature decision on her part, which sets this story apart from the previous two. There are also two surprises in store for readers, and it might be hard for parents to maintain dry eyes for the ending. The Knuffle Bunny series is a modern classic.