Knuffle Bunny Free: An Unexpected Diversion, by Mo Willems, was released last week. This book is the final part of the Knuffle Bunny Trilogy. Initially I felt sad when I learned Knuffle Bunny Free would be the final installment of the “series.” After all, I had such joy reading aloud from the first two books with my fourth and fifth graders (we used those books to look at author’s craft). However, when I read the final few pages of Knuffle Bunny Free I cried. Yes, I CRIED! Not something one would expect to do after reading a Mo Willems book, but if you’ve grown attached to Trixie and her family by sharing these books with children, then you, too, will likely tear up when you read the ending of Knuffle Bunny Free.
In this story Trixie and her parents cross the Atlantic Ocean to visit her Oma and Opa in Holland. As with the other two Knuffle Bunny stories, Trixie loses Knuffle Bunny. The story shows Trixie trying to cope with the loss of Knuffle Bunny during her week away with her family in Holland. It’s a rough week for Trixie, but she does survive. As with all of the Knuffle Bunny stories, Trixie does reunite with Knuffle Bunny. However, I won’t be the spoiler… you’ve got to read the book to learn more about their incredible reunion and what happens as a result.
There are quite a few things we can teach students about the qualities of good writing from Knuffle Bunny Free. Three things I’ve identified are:
A character’s mood impacts other characters: By the third book in the Knuffle Bunny series, Trixie has learned how to deal with frustration and setbacks. However, she is still affected by the loss of her Knuffle Bunny. Students can examine how Trixie’s mood impacts the other characters in the story. Then, students can think about their main character and how they can work with his/her mood to create reactions from other characters.
Characters change in stories: Knuffle Bunny Free takes place over the course of a week. Trixie goes through a huge transformation during that time as a result of losing Knuffle Bunny. As a result, we can hold up this book as an example to show students how they can make a character change over time. Watching the growth of a character makes stories more interesting for readers and this story certainly delivers an exemplary example of a character’s internal changes.
Stories follow a clear sequence: All three of the Knuffle Bunny books are exemplars to show students when talking about sequencing. The sequence in this book feels a bit more complex since it’s a longer picture book, which makes it an ideal mentor text to use when teaching sequencing in the upper elementary grades.
If you’ve read the first two books in the Knuffle Bunny trilogy, and plan on buying and reading Knuffle Bunny Free aloud to your students, and you have the need to teach a minilesson about (strong) character development, then you can totally talk about these books with your students. If your students are anything like my fourth and fifth graders were, they loved Trixie. They liked watching her grow from the first book to the second. I can imagine students relishing in her growth by the third book. You can certainly hold up the way Willems has developed Trixie and talk about the characteristics that make her a strong character. After all, it’s our hope that students will develop characters, in their own writing, who are as beloved as Trixie.
Literacy Consultant. Author. Former 4th and 5th Grade Classroom Teacher.