Mo Willems's Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale
Children's book review by Steve Barancik
"Use your words!"
Well, the problem is that Trixie hasn't got any, unless you count
So how the heck is she supposed to tell Daddy that Knuffle Bunny (a green-tinged, floppy-eared stuffed animal) has been left behind at the laundromat???
Of course, Mommy figures it out as soon as Trixie and Daddy get home. And you should see the look on Trixie's face when Daddy realizes.
Anyone can draw a one year old thinking happy thoughts. Or sad thoughts. But it takes a genius to draw a one year old who is clearly thinking,
"Dad, you are such a moron."
Mo Willems is that genius. (And that moron!) The author of the Caldecott Medal-winning Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus (reviewed on this site) has a knack for making young readers feel good.
In Don't Let the Pigeon kids get to say, "No!" to the pigeon in the same way their parents are always saying, "No!" to them. It feels good.
In Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale, kids get to see a kid being smarter than Daddy. Trixie may be pre-verbal, but Willems makes sure that even young readers can she that she isn't pre-smart.
That feels good too.
(Speaking of "too," Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity the sequel to the original - featuring a significantly older Trixie - is also reviewed on this site.)
Know also that Willems picked up a Caldecott Honor for picture book illustration for this visually unique production.
He started with photos of his own Brooklyn neighborhood, then drew the characters on top of them with ink, coloring them in finally on the computer.
The results are sepia toned photographic backgrounds with Willems' goofy, colorful characters superimposed on top. Review continues.
Kids and parents will get a kick out of it. (The Caldecott committee sure did!)
A word about all Willems' awards for illustrations...
Don't for a second underestimate this man as a writer. He won six Emmy Awards for his writing on Sesame Street, he tells his stories with an economy that I find awe-inspiring, and I believe it's the stories themselves that strike such an impressive chord with kids.
In Knuffle Bunny, Willems even manages to depict crying as an intelligent choice, rather than an errant emotion borne of immaturity.
That's quite a trick, one that'll leave your young ones feeling validated and good about themselves.
Even the ones who can't yet use their words!
More award winners.
Read more of Steve's reviews.
Best Children's Books - Find, Read or Write home page.