In the February 10th New York Times Children’s Book Review, culture editor Michael Agger writes:
“When it comes to picking children’s books, I am a lot like those old ladies you see in Upper West Side supermarkets, tapping and squeezing and smelling the melons on display: ‘Is it ripe, dear?’ Bringing a children’s book into your home is not something to take lightly. An obliging parent may be asked to read it a hundred times. Nay, a thousand times. The big-eyed sheep that seemed so cute while you were flipping through the pages in the store soon begins to vex. Over time, reading the book becomes like ripping off a Band-Aid. Even small defects–an irritating drawing, the misuse of the word ‘presently,’ a character who speaks in rhyme–can form blisters on the parental soul. No darling, not again. Let’s pick another book, please. I’ve seen the best minds of my generation destroyed by the 38th reading of ‘Knuffle Bunny Too.'”
Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale, by Mo Willems (Hyperion, 2004).
My first encounter with this classic was in 2005. My kids wouldn’t arrive for another half a decade, and so I gave a copy to everybody I knew who did have kids.
By 2010 and 2011 I finally had my own babies to test picture books on, and Knuffle Bunny was another book that my daughter had memorized before she was two. And boy did I have fun reading it to her: “But a block or so later…Trixie (long pause for effect) realized (crescendo!) something.” Bam!
My daughter’s eyes would pop.
“Aggle flaggle klabble,” I would squawk in my best baby voice, and she’d lose it.
And then just look at the daddy’s face as he interprets, “Aggle flaggle klabble.” “‘That’s right'” he says. “We’re going home.'” Poor, clueless daddy.
Of course Trixie knows, and my daughter knows, we all know (except poor, clueless daddy, of course) that Knuffle Bunny has been forgotten, left looking forlornly out from the washing machine in the laundromat. On this page, Pillar always pointed to Knuffle Bunny and sighed, “Oh no…”
My all time favorite page: Trixie, horizontal in her daddy’s arms, post-fit, so over poor, clueless daddy, almost as much as daddy is so over Trixie’s fit. And so what is the first thing mom says as they walk up the steps? “Where’s Knuffle Bunny?” of course. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity, (Hyperion, 2007) is equally awesome. There is more text–Trixie has gotten older and her vocabulary has developed–and when she and a classmate (Sonja) squabble over how to pronounce their cherished toy (Nuffle vs. Kuh-nuffle) their teacher takes the bunnies and returns them, at the end of the day, to the wrong owners. Our favorite page is the one that starts with Sonja and her Knuffle Bunny and zooms in closer and closer and closer. We’ve added a very dramatic “Dun, dun, dun!” to the wordless spread that my daughter now delivers better than I can.
The only possible thing that might “vex” that I can think of is Trixie’s long list of friends on the third page. A little tiresome on the 38th reading, I’ll admit, but there is an easy solution: half of the list…skip it.
In a rare demonstration of restartint (something I have none of when it comes to buying picture books) I have been waiting to buy Free until Pillar is three. Not much longer now (April), and I’m sure it won’t disappoint.
Knuffle Bunny and Knuffle Bunny Too Picture Book House Rating: Read It Again, Mommmy!
Much more Mo…soon.