Saturday, August 21, 2010

Mo Willems

The final book in Mo Willems' Caldecott Honor-Winning Knuffle Bunny series is coming out in September. I'm currently in the process of planning an event for the book release and am very excited about the third book; I think it is a fitting ending to the series.

For those of you who don’t know who Mo Willems is, you may wish to inquire of a four-year-old “Why can’t the pigeon drive the bus?” Or perhaps ask him, “What exactly is a Knuffle Bunny?” It will be rather surprising if you are not answered with elaborate explanations or lots of giggling. But for those of you without a four-year-old in the vicinity, the answer will be a little longer.

Mo Willems is a writer, illustrator and cartoonist currently living in Northampton, Massachusetts. He began his career as a writer and animator for Sesame Street, where he was awarded 6 Emmy Awards for his writing. He went on to work on shows for both Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network and it was during this time that he began creating children’s books.

In 2004 Willems’ Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus won a Caldecott Honor. In this silly book, a bus driver asks the reader to watch his bus for a little while, with one important instruction, not to let the pigeon drive the bus. The rest of the book is taken up by pigeon, who wheedles and begs and cries and rages- like any human three-year-old- to be allowed to drive the bus.

Willems’ first Caldecott Honor was followed by two others, one for Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale in 2005, and the other for Knuffle Bunny, Too in 2008. This delightful series stars Trixie and her stuffed Knuffle Bunny, who she can’t live without. The highly-anticipated last book in this Caldecott Honor-winning trilogy, Knuffle Bunny Free: An Unexpected Diversion will be released September 28th.

More recently, Willems wrote City Dog, Country Frog, which was illustrated by Zen Shorts creator Jon Muth, and which has spent two months on the New York Times Children’s Bestseller list. Willems continues to create cartoons with Weston Woods Studios and his animated version of Knuffle Bunny won Best Film in 2008 at the New York International Children’s Film Festival.

Knuffle Bunny Free: An Unexpected Diversion
Trixie and her parents (and Knuffle Bunny, of course) get on an airplane to visit Trixie’s Oma and Opa in Holland. But upon arriving at her grandparent’s house, Trixie realizes that Knuffle Bunny hasn’t arrived with them! A frantic phone call to the airline reveals that Knuffle Bunny was left on the airplane, now bound for China (which is very far away indeed). Trixie feels terrible, but when a dream about Knuffle Bunny meeting other children makes her feel better, she begins to realize that perhaps she’s growing-up. And then, on the plane back to the United States, a crying baby and a startling surprise in her seat pocket cause her to make an important decision.

Willems’ Knuffle Bunny trilogy celebrates the bond between child and stuffed animal with humor and respect. It’s a bond many so many children have shared, one that goes beyond toy to playmate, companion, and confidante. While the end of a series is always difficult, this one ends with the possibility of future adventures for Knuffle Bunny and delightful possibilities for Trixie’s own future, ones that will have adults tearing-up as they read aloud.

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