Growing up is not exactly a pleasant experience for any of us. Except when it is. Mo Willems Knuffle Bunny Free: An Unexpected Diversion, the last installment of his beloved Knuffle Bunny series, captures this double-sided reality perfectly. While comic in a way that is signature Willems, the story is also a touch sad and maybe best read sometime other than bedtime.
Knuffle Bunny Free opens on Trixie’s ever-expanding world. She, her parents and Knuffle Bunny are taking a trip to Holland to visit Trixie’s grandparents. As usual, Knuffle Bunny gets lost – only this time, he winds up much farther away than another neighborhood. He winds up in China.
In the setting of a foreign country, Trixie is forced to come to terms with the fact that “she was getting bigger. Even if she wished she wasn’t.” While she has her own adventures in Holland, she dreams of Knuffle Bunny’s adventures around the world. The joy that her little green friend brings to the children he meets moves Trixie to expand herself. She likes sharing that happiness with others.
In the end, of course, the two are reunited. But now that Trixie is growing up, her heart has a new sense of things. When the needs of another child come to her attention, she knows that Knuffle Bunny’s friendship is best shared now, and she will be OK. “She was big enough.”
With humor and the grace of perfect timing, Willems balances the joy and sadness inherent in the complexion of growing up, bringing this chapter in Trixie’s life to a close. His always wonderful illustrations, which combine drawings and photographs, make this a story that is both real and imagined – a story to which we can all relate, no matter how far we’ve travelled.
Erin Quick, Books Blogger for SmartParenting
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