Knuffle Bunny and us go way back — I read the first book to my son when he was just two years old. Somehow, I didn’t get around to reading Knuffle Bunny Free — the last in the trilogy (I skipped the second book because I didn’t really like the story, though I’ll probably read it to them eventually) — to him until recently, a whopping three years later. I also took the chance to introduce the first Knuffle Bunny book to my daughter, and unsurprisingly, both books were a big hit with them.
In a way, I’m glad that we waited to read this one, because with each new Knuffle Bunny book, Trixie (the protagonist named after and inspired by Mo Willems’s daughter in real life) grows up a little — from her saying her first word in the first book, to her going to school in the second, and finally, [*spoiler alert!] her deciding that she is big enough to let Knuffle Bunny go in this last installment. And, like Trixie, my son has also evolved a lot in the past three years, so reading this book to him feels a little uncanny and bittersweet, since he is also transitioning into a “big boy” and rapidly outgrowing some of the things he used to enjoy in the past (including certain picture books that he already deems too “babyish” *sobs*).
There’s also a moving note from the author to his daughter at the end of Knuffle Bunny Free, which kind of explains the massive success of the Knuffle Bunny books: they are heartwarming and relatable precisely because the stories ARE loosely autobiographical and personal — even the photographs that serve as the backdrop for the illustrations in all three books (save for a few photos in the last book) were personally shot by the author himself.
So if you haven’t read any of the Knuffle Bunny books, all I can say is, “AGGLE FLAGGLE KLABBLE?!?”, which is Mo Willems-speak for “Why the heck haven’t you?!?” OK, no it isn’t — of course I made the last bit up! But I mean it sincerely: every kid needs to read Knuffle Bunny pronto.