Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale
by Mo Willems
I have a special place in my heart for Park Slope, Brooklyn, as my husband was born and raised there. And, in the early years of our marriage, through the birth of our children, we spent many happy times in their family home in Park Slope, in one enormous three-story brownstone, several blocks from Prospect Park.
Knuffle Bunny’s saucer-eyed toddler named Trixie, also put me in mind of a character in one of the first cartoon series that ran in prime time, during the late 1950’s, before that famous Stone Age Flintstone family arrived in Bedrock.
It was called the “The Gerald McBoing-Boing Show.” Gerald could have been Trixie’s distant cousin.
In Knuffle Bunny, Mo Willems animation art story characters are coupled with black and white photos of leafy tree-lined streets in Park Slope, its signature brownstones, a park, (Prospect Park, perhaps?), a laundromat, and even a school (maybe the school on Eight Street and Sixth Avenue called PS 39).
This author/artist has managed to capture intimately both time and place, and a “cautionary” tale of communication, and what it involves.
Mr. Willems is a six-time Emmy Award winner, given for his writing for the groundbreaking and long-running childhood educational series, called Sesame Street.
In this Caldecott Honor designated picture book, called Knuffle Bunny, Dad is off to the local laundromat with toddler, Trixie, whose level of verbal acuity is, shall we say, still in the developmental stages?
But that should not deter communication between father and daughter, right? Wrong.
The laundromat adventure winds up in a real lather, as Trixie’s beloved rabbit named Knuffle Bunny is left in the lurch…at the laundromat.
How will Trixie communicate this fact to her Dad as they journey homeward? Trixe’s full range of verbiage is limited to such interesting phrases as… Aggle flaggle klabble, Blaggle plabble, and Wumby flappy?
Got that, Dad?
After all, there are, as Dad will soon ascertain, many forms of communication cues, when words fail to elicit from an adult, the urgency of the situation.
For instance, increased concern on the part of young Trixie is alternately indicated by a rise of her decibel level, gesticulations, going limp, and even tears, which are misinterpreted as “fussiness,” by Dad.
And poor Dad is at a loss to determine what exactly is causing the kerfuffle on the way home.
“Where’s Knuffle Bunny,?” intones Mom, as they arrive home, is Dad’s first clue of what caused this communication commotion on the looong walk home.
Back to the laundromat in a tearing hurry to seek and find the beloved rabbit is in order. And throughout those trips to, from and back to the laundromat, Mo Willems cleverly intersperses, alongside his animation art of Mom, Dad and Trixie, black and white photos of wonderful Park Slope houses and sights.
Mo Willems’ picture of an animated Dad, his head halfway into a photo of a real Brooklyn laundromat dryer, produces predictably enough, Trixie’s first real words.
And, it’s not hard to guess what they might be as Knuffle Bunny is found safe and sound..and dry. KNUFFLE BUNNY!!!
Apparently, there is a real Trixie and her mommy, plus a genuine laundromat that exists at 358 6th Avenue in Park Slope, New York, that served as the impetus to this cautionary tale.
Let the “dryer” beware!
And, if you just happened to be in the NYC area this summer, please be sure to stop by, along with your young reader, to the New York Historical Society that has a marvelous exhibit entitled, “The Art and Whimsy of Mo Willems.”
It runs until September 25 of 2016.
I’ve added a link at the bottom, so you can read more about it, if you need more of the whimsical in your life….and who doesn’t today?
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