A FEW OTHER EVENTS FOR
FEBRUARY 18:

  • Happy birthday Barbara Joosse (Mama, Do You Love Me?).
  • Birthday salutations to Toni Morrison (The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon, Beloved).
  • It’s the birth date of Virginia Kahl (1918–2004), The Duchess Bakes a Cake.
  • The Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan, was published on this day in 1678. Read John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, retold by Gary Schmidt, illustrated by Barry Moser.
  • It’s also the publication date of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Marc Twain, first released in 1885.
  • In honor of the discovery of the celestial body in 1930, which was considered a planet until recently, it’s Pluto Day.

For nearly ten years February has been designated Adopt a Rescued Rabbit Month. When I think of a rabbit that needs rescuing in children’s books, the first one that comes to mind appeared in 2004—not a living rabbit but a stuffed toy named Knuffle Bunny.

In Mo Willems’s Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale, we first see Trixie’s parents getting married, her birth, and a scene of this young toddler squishing her beloved toy, Knuffle Bunny. Cartoon characters set against real photographs of the Park Slope area of Brooklyn show Trixie and her father going to the Laundromat. A typical ebullient child, Trixie runs around in the clothes her father wants to place in the washer, but she helps put the money in the machine before they leave. Adults may be clueless at this point about what is going to happen, but children never miss the detail that Knuffle Bunny now can be seen through the window of the washer. Then as they head home, Trixie tries to communicate her terrible tragedy to her father—“ ‘Aggle flaggle klabble!’ Trixie bawled. She went boneless.” When they arrive at the house, Mom realizes what has happened, and all ends well with Trixie’s first words, “KNUFFLE BUNNY!!!” In this simple story, perfect for the youngest readers, Mo Willems tells a common childhood tale in a way that gets both adults and children laughing. The Knuffle Bunny books now form a trilogy—Knuffle Bunny Too and Knuffle Bunny Free. For those who would like to take a look at his sketches for the books, they can be found at the R. Michelson Galleries in Northampton, MA. Even in these early stages, Willems excels at making his characters come alive with a single line or expression in the eyes.

When researching 100 Best Books for Children, I discovered that many of our best authors were rejected by publishers as they began their careers—L.M. Montgomery, Dr. Seuss, Kate DiCamillo, and J.K. Rowling, to name only a few. Mo Willems also had his first book manuscript, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, rejected again and again. In his case, a very persistent and committed agent, Marcia Wernick (Wernick & Pratt Agency) simply refused to give up. She believed Mo, with a background in writing for Sesame Street and Cartoon Network, had all the right impulses when it came to creating books for children. Finally, she found a new editor, hunting for projects, who was willing to take a chance.

Like so many of those who struggled before him, Mo Willems discovered that once he got published, wild enthusiasm for his books took over. Some of his titles seem destined to sit on the classic picture book shelf along with Dr. Seuss. With a real grasp of childhood behavior, a sense of what constitutes a solid story, and the artistic ability to render his thoughts in simple line and color, Mo Willems has emerged as one of the most popular picture book artist of the twenty-first century.

If by any chance you have missed Mo Willems, Knuffle Bunny makes a great place to begin reading his work. If you want to rescue your own Knuffle Bunny today, he can be purchased in stuffed-toy form, a lovely gift for those who had already fallen in love with these books. And if you want to have a laugh at a video starring our hero of the day click here. It has already inspired one young reader to plan his own road trip.

Here’s a page from Knuffle Bunny:

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Originally posted February 18, 2011. Updated for .

Tags: Toys
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for Knuffle Bunny
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COMMENTS

  1. Danni says:

    I always though ‘Knuffle’ was pronounced with a soft K like ‘knock,’ but according to Mo Willems, it is pronounced with a hard K. Either way, Knuffle Bunny is a wonderful book. Willems’ use of illustrations on photographs really makes the book come to life. I also love Mo Willems’ Elephant and Piggie books!

  2. Maria says:

    Mo Willems is a modern master of children’s literature, with so many funny, lovable characters. But for me? Nothing beats Knuffle Bunny! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Tess W. says:

    I adore Mo Willems! The energy and combinations of artistic media create what seems to me like a thoroughly unique reading experience. It shocks me how hard a time Mo Willems initially had getting published! It’s fantastically creative storytelling that creates Trixie’s stories.

  4. Sydnee says:

    I was so excited to see this in the almanac. The illustrations really pop against those photographs and the story is absolutely perfect. I bought all three of the Knuffle Bunny books for my nephew this year, and I’m sure he’ll return to them over and over just like I do!

  5. Chelsey says:

    I really like Knuffle Bnny, and I’m not a fan of picture books in general, but the story within the pictures is so unique

  6. Isabel says:

    Knuffle Bunny exists also as El conejito Knuffle. It was one of my hardest and most enjoyable challenges, to translate several sentences in this book, like “she went boneless”, and find a Spanish correlation to “Aggle Flaggle Klabble!. It was nice to read that “Criticas Magazine” thought it was a “seamless translation”.
    Isabel

  7. Mary Lou says:

    If you loved Knuffle Bunny, you must read Knuffle Bunny Too. Both of these books are among my favorites. Both books should be on the list of books read to children. Mo Willem’s is talented author.

  8. Anita says:

    Isabel: Thanks for the note. Can you give us your phrase for “Aggle Flaggle Klabble”? Thanks for mentioning the Spanish edition of the book.

  9. Margaret says:

    Mo Willems is the best. As a school librarian I cannot keep his books on the shelf! The newest Knuffle Bunny, Knuffle Bunny, Free is just as great as the first two. But I think Leonardo the Terrible Monster is my all time favorite Mo Willems book. Thanks for making us all laugh, and for getting our kids excited about reading!

  10. Sarah S. says:

    The best thing about this books is how relatable it is. Kids can understand Trixie’s despair at losing her favorite toy. Parents can relate to the father’s utter panic at the impending tantrum. Willems is a master. HIs books make you laugh and cry (I almost didn’t make it through Knuffle Bunny Free). One of my new favorites destined to be a classic.

  11. Colleen says:

    I always recommend Mo Willems books and still get giddy when I see them displayed at the library or bookstores. I love Knuffle Bunny and I, too, know what it is like to have my beloved stuffed bunny take a turn in the washing machine.

  12. Rebecca says:

    I made the mistake of showing this video to my kids. Watch out world – Jeremy and his monster are packing as I write for an epic roadtrip!

  13. Erica S. says:

    A friend of mine just asked me to recommend some books for a 5-year-old and Mo Willems was at the top of my list! Knuffle Bunny is great, but for me Elephant and Piggie is absolutely superb. I laughed out loud with “We Are In a Book” – Willems gets the humor just right, never putting in over-the-top gags but keeping me thoroughly entertained the whole time. Definitely one of my favorite modern artists.

  14. Vicky says:

    The thing I love most about this book continues to be the sense of place that Willems invokes. I first read Knuffle to a group of children in a very rural town. Once I was done one of the little boys looked at and me and said “That book isn’t from around here.” He might not of known where Brooklyn was, but this acknowledgment meant that he knew that this book had the power to transport him to a place he had never been, never heard of before; to vicariously experience a very different way of life. I love books that transport kids, and I love Knuffle!

  15. Kate says:

    In response to Vicky, the sense of place, unmistakable because of Willems’s use of photography, is what I adore about this book also. I am a city child, and it has always given me a sense of security to see neighborhoods like my own presented in the books that I read. I’m sure a lot of young kids feel this way when they read Knuffle Bunny. And on the flip side, as Vicky explains, this book has the power to transport readers from very different environments into the city, because all youngsters – no matter where they live – can relate to Trixie’s sheer terror over losing her favorite toy.

  16. Sam L. says:

    What I enjoyed most about this book was how Tracie tries to communicate with her father. That is how children sound sometimes, especially when they are distressed. Also, it give parents and kids a laugh: the words are fun to say and hear.

  17. Erin says:

    Like Tess said, it shocks me that Mo Willems had a difficult time getting published. I am a huge fan of his, and this book depicts the strong attachment that so many children develop for a toy. I saw the musical adaptation of Knuffly Bunny last year in Northampton, MA and I was impressed with how the book was translated into a stage show while staying fairly faithful to the original text.

  18. Barb says:

    I love that Jonathan Hunt was pushing for Elephant & Piggie over at the Mock Newbery blog at SLJ!

  19. The thing about this book that I find most fascinating is how true it is to a child’s real experience with early communication. Everyone can identify with the frustration of trying to communicate something and having it perceived as something else, and I would bet that most people can specifically remember this sort of experience as a child. For example I can remember a time, when I was probably three or four years old, when I was in a restaurant with my parents. I remember saying that I wanted “the stuff”. Well, I knew that “the stuff” was coleslaw, but my parents had no idea what I was talking about and I didn’t have the word “coleslaw” in my vocabulary to clarify myself. I screamed, and yelled, and made a big fuss until my father’s lunch came, garnished with a scoop of coleslaw. “That stuff, that’s the stuff I want” I said. Relieved, my parents ordered me a big whopping bowl of it. I remember how frustrating that ten minutes was, and I think I could have picked up Knuffle Bunny and completely related to Trixie’s frustrations. I think this a fantastic book- one of Willem’s many masterpieces.

  20. Momo says:

    I adore Knuffle Bunny and have all the books, the DVD and the soft toy too! I read it every year to over 100 Kindergarten children and they never fail to identify with Trixie. Thank you so much for your book a day site I adore it too!! It is great to read some of the background information you have found it adds so much to the conversations I have with children about the books in my school library. Keep up the good work. I am far away in Australia but so many of your postings are for books I have loved and often share.

  21. Bookjeannie says:

    I knew immediately that it had to be Mr. Schu’s video because it was so wonderful!

  22. Caryl B. says:

    There is also a third book out about Trixie and her bunny. Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late is a favorite of mine because of how little ones interact with the characters throughout the book.

  23. Alejandro Mazariegos says:

    As noted in Anita’s recommendation, the actual story begins on the book’s end paper, and I absolutely loved that effect the first time I read it. It’s such a clever and efficient way to create the world within the book, and it prepares the reader for the breathtaking photography/illustrations found in the book. A fantastic piece of inventive literature!

    And to echo Caryl B.: Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive The Bus! is absolutely hilarious. Great reader/text interaction.

  24. Ally Russell says:

    Mo Willems became a favorite picture book author of mine the moment I read “Knuffle Bunny,” and it was definitely a favorite (amongst the adult booksellers) at Barnes & Noble when I worked there. The photography and illustrations work together well, and the story genuinely captures childhood. My favorite part is when Trixie goes “boneless” because they’ve left Knuffle Bunny behind.

    A classic! I highly recommend Mo Willems’ new book “That is Not a Good Idea!”

  25. S.Matt Read says:

    An extremely entertaining read. I read this last year and was blown away at how effective the art was. Still am.

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