I travelled around Europe with my parents when I was young. We drove to Austria twice – the second time was because I’d left my beloved toy raccoon (Raccy) in a hotel and he had to be retrieved. A familiar tale?!
Many Babyology readers will be familiar with the work of author Mo Willems and may already know his character Knuffle Bunny. In his latest book, Knuffle Bunny Free, Willems sends Knuffle Bunny on an international adventure with Trixe and her family.
Knuffle Bunny and Trixie are off to visit ‘Oma’ and ‘Opa’ in Holland. But when they finally get there, Trixie can’t find Knuffle Bunny anywhere (he’s been left on the plane). Trixie’s dad makes a frantic phone call to the airline only to learn that Knuffle Bunny is enroute to China. With no chance of Knuffle Bunny’s return, Trixie’s parents and grandparents try to cheer her up (with chocolate milk), tell their own stories about ‘outgrowing’ toys, distract her with activities and find a (very poor) replacement for Knuffle Bunny – the unlovable Funny-Bunny-Wunny-Doll-Extreme.
Ultimately Trixie finds comfort in the fact that Knuffle Bunny is probably bringing happiness to lots of kids around the world and that perhaps she doesn’t need Knuffle Bunny in the way that she once did. On her return flight home, Knuffle Bunny is found but that does not lead to the ending you might expect.
Although I don’t ordinarily give away endings, I think it’s important to reveal a few things about this story. Importantly, Willems announced that this story is Knuffle Bunny’s final adventure with Trixie and the ‘ending’ is poignant – and that doesn’t mean ‘happy’ in the traditional sense. Trixie shows just how brave and grown up she is by giving a crying baby Knuffle Bunny and, in doing so, becomes ‘Knuffle Bunny free’. Some young readers might struggle with this outcome, particularly if they have their own very special toy.
To add to the poignancy of the ending, the final pages contain a note, written by Trixie’s dad to her, saying that he hopes Knuffle Bunny might return years later when Trixie has her own child. It could bring a tear to your eye!
Knuffle Bunny Free is available from Book Depository for $11.53, with free post to Ausralia.