As I wrote in a pervious post, we are having a Peter Rabbit Birthday party. The little guests will hop on over this Sunday.
Also as I promised, I have waited to buy Knuffle Bunny Free: An Unexpected Diversion by Mo Willems (Balzer + Bray, 2010) until today, so that it can be a gift for my daughter when she turns three, at her Peter Rabbit Party.
Tonight I took a break from gluing felt carrots onto felt light-blue headbands for the kids to wear at the party’s scavenger hunt through Mr. McGregor’s Garden and pulled Kunffle Bunny Free out of the brown paper independent bookstore bag.
Willems was right. This was absolutely “unexpected,” and heart wrenching.
Right away I notice Trixie’s mommy cut her hair. Willems writes, “They were on their way to visit Trixie’s Oma and Opa in Holland. Holland is far away.” I thought, “Shoot, does Knuffle Bunny really have to get lost again?”
Right away I notice Trixie’s Daddy grew a mustache and a beard and has gained a few pounds around the middle. The family boards the plane.
The family arrives at Oma and Opa’s and once more, “…Trixie realized something!”
Trixie’s parents call the airline, but the plane is on its way to China. Most of Trixie’s visit to her grandparents is therefore spent missing Knuffle Bunny.
When she aches, so do I.
Her family tries to make her feel better, and, “Trixie understood. She was getting bigger.” Next page: “Even if she wished she wasn’t.”
Of course, the bunny her grandparents give her can’t replace Knuffle Bunny, but slowly, slowly, after Trixie has a dream on a four page spread that unfolds from the book about how much fun Knuffle Bunny is having seeing the world and making other kids happy, “Trixie felt better.”
Now I’m not just aching, I’m tearing up.
She enjoys the rest of her trip, gets back on the plane and lo and behold! Who should she find in her seat!? It’s Knuffle Bunny!
I do a happy dance. Hurry!
Trixie gives, she gives Knuffle Bunny to the crying baby sitting behind her because…
Trixie knows that she is, “big enough.”
Now I’m crying out loud and my husband, who is sitting next to me at the dining room table looks and me and says, “You need to get some sleep.”
But there’s more!
On the last two spreads Willems writes a note to Trixie, explaining that he hopes she will “…fall in love…start a family and be happy…and that one day, many years from now, you will receive a package…from an old pen pal. Love, Daddy.”
Pictured on this last page is the adult Trixie with her toddler son holding the contents of the package: Knuffle Bunny.
That’s it. I’m weeping like I do at the end of Marley and Me.
It’s all too much!…Trixie giving away the bunny, Trixie getting older (my daughter is getting older!) the scene at the end…
I couldn’t cut and glue felt carrots in this state. I had to write. “Wait, you can’t write about it until Katy reads it,” my husband said.
“But I just have to…”
I don’t know how my daughter is going to engage with this book. Unlike her mother who still has her childhood blanket stored safely somewhere special, she has never really attached to anything, well, other than books.
Will she understand what Trixie does? Will she be sad, too?
What I do know is this: I have read Knuffle Bunny and Knuffle Bunny Too so many times that when I read Knuffle Bunny Free I was heartbroken, sick-to-my-stomach sad, devastated, to see Trixie grow up and give her bunny away.
The fact that she does, in a way, get it back is the only consolation for my deep regret that this series has come…to an end.
It will live on in the Picture Book House, I’m sure, until one day (oh drat these tears!) my kids are “big enough” to read something a bit longer, with fewer pictures, by themselves.
At that point I will sadly store the books away to be saved, just like Knuffle Bunny, for the next generation…