Friday, October 9, 2009

It's K-nuffle, with a K

Mo Willems gave a storytime this summer at the Art Institute of Chicago that conveniently took place the Friday of Annual weekend. There was a small group of children attending, accompanied by a large, adoring gaggle of his adult fans (myself included). He read Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity and explained that you could go either way (hard or soft K), but that he preferred K-nuffle, because that is Dutch for "cuddle." K-nuffle it is.

Mo's daughter Trixie is now talking pretty much nonstop and she is taking Knuffle Bunny to school to show all her new PreK friends. At school she meets Sonja, who -- to her horror -- also has a Knuffle Bunny (soft K). Some bad behavior leads to the girls being separated from their bunnies; each is reunited at the end of the day. Alas, it is only at 2:30 a.m. that Trixie realizes that she has the wrong bunny (hint: it's the inside of the ears). It's a mad dash across Grand Army Plaza before things are set aright.

Again, we have a full cast production: Mo, Trixie, Sonja and Trixie's mom are all performed by ... well, themselves. Trixie (who has read Knuffle Bunny with her father as well) talks and reads utterly naturally. She and her dad begin the book in a charming fashion, explicating the illustrations that precede the title page (Mo getting married, having a baby, and Trixie finding Knuffle Bunny in the laundromat) in a relaxed and unscripted conversation. Then Mo and Trixie share the narrative duties. When Trixie sees Sonja's Knuffle Bunny, her horror is palpable in her voice.

There are some engaging sound effects -- including Trixie's afterschool and going-to-bed activities (vigorous toothbrushing) complete with robots (Mo and his wife) from the plant Snurp [I might be forgetting the exact name] urging her onward. Early in the morning, she announces to her parents that she's got the wrong bunny, and then the Willems get a phone call: "We have your bunny." This line reading (Mo?) was quite hilarious, sounding like a muffled ransom demand. Off they race to the accompaniment of some sprightly caper music to make the exchange.

In a nice finish, Mo and Trixie read the book through to the back cover as they describe the illustration there as well. (You can see this, but it can't be copied, if you "search inside this book" at amazon.com.) More words from Mo about his creative process conclude the CD. Just a delightful audio package from start to finish.

Back in August, in her Audiobooker blog, Mary Burkey shared an interview with Mo and Trixie after they finished recording yet another Willems title, The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog. What a great kid!

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